Leinster juggernaut rolls on
PRO14 REPORT: Leinster’s mammoth unbeaten run continued as they laid down a marker ahead of the Pro14 semifinals by beating Ulster 28-10 at the Aviva Stadium.
They did so without the entire side that beat Munster last time out, changing their XV but still proving too strong for Dan McFarland’s team.
The visitors got going quickly as Ed Byrne crossed and they led 13-0 at half-time, Ulster fought hard in the second half and got to within six points thanks to Rob Herring’s try but Scott Penny and Harry Byrne both dotted down in the final ten minutes as Leinster found an extra gear to win.
The result means Leinster end the regular season unbeaten on a Pro14 high 69 points while their overall unbeaten run extends to 23 matches, and Ulster head into the final four having only won once in their last five Pro14 games.
Within three minutes the champions had the perfect start as captain Ed Byrne, leading out Leinster for the first time, dotted down after Ciaran Frawley’s brilliant kick had set the visitors away.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) August 29, 2020
The visitors made their lead ten points when Ross Byrne slotted over the posts in the 15th minute and 13 not long after through the same avenue.
Ulster began to grow into the game though and threatened to reach the Leinster line only for Stuart McCloskey to overhit his kick out to the wing.
And further chances for the hosts were spurned thanks to a combination of Ulster errors which resulted in penalties and tight defending from Leinster.
Ross Byrne then added three points with his boot and there could have been further points added when former Leinster man Ian Madigan was almost made to pay for spilling a high kick.
Despite starting the second half slowly, Ulster did find their feet again and put pressure on the Leinster line.
This told when Herring carried the ball over after an excellent Ulster maul, and the hosts momentum continued as they got close to another score straight away only to knock on.
With 15 minutes to go Ulster came again and John Cooney’s penalty narrowed the gap to six points, making for a fascinating one try game finale.
But, for all Ulster’s pressure, several simple errors cost them and Leinster seemingly put the game beyond them with seven minutes left when Harry Byrne’s sensational cross-field kick found Penny in acres of space to go over.
Ulster didn’t give the ghost up though as Cooney made a brilliant interception and ran through to score but the try was ruled out for offside.
And salt was rubbed into the hosts’ wound as Harry Byrne dotted down to see Leinster home.
Tries: E Byrne, Penny, H Byrne
Cons: R Byrne 2
Pens: R Byrne 3
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Sam Carter (captain), 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Louis Ludik.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Hugo Keenan, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Cian Kelleher, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Will Connors, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Ross Molony, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Ed Byrne (captain).
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Tom Clarkson, 19 Rhys Ruddock, 20 Scott Penny, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jimmy O’Brien.
Referee: George Clancy
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace, Eoghan Cros
TMO: Brian MacNeice