Marcus Rea makes it an Ulster debut to savour in Guinness PRO14 against Leinster

Marcus Rea scores a try on his Ulster debut against Leinster
Marcus Rea scores a try on his Ulster debut against Leinster

As far as debut’s go, Marcus Rea’s was probably perfect.

The Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy player got an early call from the bench in Ulster’s Guinness PRO14 game against Leinster at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night.

The Ballymena player then went on to score the try which helped secure a 14-13 win and he also scored on his senior debut.

Adding to the occasion was the fact he got to play along side older brother, Matty, and make it a night to remember for the Rea family.

It is not the first time the pair have played together in the white jersey - they both started against Uruguay in an uncapped friendly earlier this season.

And it is not unusual for younger sibling Marcus to get on the try sheet - he scored against Uruguay and also in another uncapped friendly at the start of the season against Gloucester.

When it mattered, however, Marcus delivered, and it gives him some bragging rights over his older brother - Matty having played 27 times for the senior side it yet to get over for a try.

Marcus was a 15th minute replacement for backrow forward Sean Reidy who came off on an HIA - and did not return.

Having impressed in both attack and defence and with Ulster trailing 13-7 at the break to their Provincial rivals, Marcus showed pure grit and determination to get over a for a try near to the posts in the 61st minutes after 32 phases from the home side.

Peter Nelson’s conversion made it 14-13 and Ulster withstood some strong Leinster pressure to register their first win over their rivals since 2017.

Reflecting on everything that made it a special occasion, with his parents watching on as well, Rea said: “Safe to say it’s a dream come true, first and foremost to get on the pitch with Matthew just to make the parents proud basically.

“That’s what this week was about for me, the other stuff was an added bonus for me.

“It means I have to keep my head down and show what I can do in training - this pre-season is a big one for me, especially with a World Cup year, if I can get a few more games under my belt and start to push boys.”

In terms of the step up from club land and ‘A’ games, Rea, with a smile, said: “You only had to see me in the last 10 minutes to understand how far to the edge I put my body.

“In the pro game you’re running, running, especially when we were camped in their ‘22’.

“Eventually we got over and that was just if anything it was just nice to get a break! A break from playing and getting back up into the line.

Ulster had bombarded the Leinster line for long periods and Rea showed pure grit, determination and power to get over.

“I just kind of saw the gap, I think it was their eight folded around and I took my opportunity.

“We did stuff like that, that type of scenario stuff where we’re grappling for the ball and trying to get over the line, with Dan Soper in the gym, and you don’t really understand when you do it, but when you’re there you’re thankful you’ve done it and you’re thankful for coaches like him bringing stuff, however small it may be at the time, into the gym. It’s got us over the line in the end.

And older brother Matty had some advice, Marcus saying: “Basically he told me just do your thing. We’ve played a few times before for Ballymena and we get on well, back each other up, and it was more the last ten minutes asking him to help me out here and help me get over the line!”