LEINSTER 40 ULSTER 7
Ulster slid down two places in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 table following a disappointing display against leaders Leinster in Dublin last night.
Leinster dominated the game, but failed to push on in the second half having already secured a try bonus point by the break, going in 26-7 ahead.
An experimental Ulster side could only manage to get into the Leinster half twice in the second half as they fell to consecutive derby losses having gone down against Connacht last weekend.
Leinster had only centre Noel Reid retained from the side which were beaten by Munster in Limerick’s Thomond Park last weekend, while Ulster showed 11 changes from the side which lost at Connacht.
Among those saw a return from a year-long injury for winger, Rob Lyttle, while props Wiehahn Herbst and Andy Warwick along with captain for the night, Alan O’Connor, all returned from injury.
Ulster had opened well, Darren Cave stealing ball at the kick-off as Leinster dropped the ball, but that early attack was halted abruptly as ball was lost.
Two poor box kicks from Dave Shanahan handed easy possession to Leinster and it was from the second, and some 25 phases later the home Province scored.
An opportunity had been missed when they found numbers on the left, but play moved right and hooker Sean Cronin was to barge his way over for the opening try on six minutes. Outhalf Ciaran Frawley landed the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
The sea of blue kept coming and within six minutes Leinster doubled their advantage, and it was Cronin again who raced in from 15m taking Michael Lowery and Shanahan with him as he dotted down. In front of the posts Frawley goaled.
Ulster then found second gear and after a rumble into the home ‘22’ O’Connor peeled from a maul and Adam McBurney trundled on. Ball was flashed right, but a Leinster hand got to a pass for Lowry, who was then clobbered accidentally by an acrobatic flying Barry Daly. Pete Nelson came on for Lowry who went off HIA.
With play brought back for a penalty, Ulster opted for touch, the driving maul made some inroads before McBurney emerged and dived over for the try. Outhalf Johnny McPhillips converted from the touchline to put them right back in it at 14-7 after 18 minutes.
Within a minute, Leinster’s Conor O’Brien had dotted down after some appalling tackling attempts from Ulster, Frawley surprisingly missed the conversion and it remained 19-7.
McPhillips missed a long range penalty effort for Ulster on 27 minutes, the next two penalties were put to touch, the first of which saw the visitors flop at their own lineout and the second they conceded a penalty after handbags between locks O’Connor and Mick Kearney - the former spoken to by referee Andrew Brace.
John Andrews entered the fray for Ulster with Adam McBurney requiring treatment to a blood injury and although they had a little purple patch, they really offered little.
In the final minute of the half Ulster were again given a lesson in ball retention once again as Leinster went through the phases. A penalty to touch saw Leinster put the driving maul on, and although Ulster defended it well this time, eventually prop Andrew Porter edged over to secure the try bonus point, Frawley’s conversion sending his side in 26-7 ahead at the break..
Leinster looked to have another try 10 minutes into the second half after they stole an Ulster lineout on halfway and backrow Scott Penny went on an impressive break, before behind hauled down, with Frawley pouncing on the loose ball and going in under the posts. But the ball had gone forward in Penny’s tackle and on TMO review was chalked.
Leinster remained the threatening side every time they got the ball and a lovely line from Conor O’Brien could have made more but for a timely tackle by James Hume and a knockout from the home centre
On the hour mark Leinster were encamped on the Ulster line, the visitors holding out illegally and legally, but another scrum penalty saw the hosts turn the screw and scrum half Jamison Gibson-Park sniped in for a try, which Frawley converted to extend the lead to 33-7.
James Hume did ignite a bit of pace into the Ulster backline and tried to get Robert Lyttle away, but it was closed down and a silly bit of play from replacement Caleb Montgomery in his first action handed ball back to Leinster via a penalty.
And not surprisingly the host Province were soon setting an attacking scrum under the Ulster posts but on this occasion, the visitors held firm in defence.
But there was one last play in Leinster and as the Ulster scrum creaked on their own line a penalty try was awarded when it collapsed - summing up the hosts' evening.