Leinster's ruthless first-half floors Ulster
MATCH REPORT: Four first-half tries, including two for Sean Cronin, and a staunch second-half defensive display ensured Leinster took maximum points with a 40-7 PRO14 win over Ulster.
Both teams came into their 155th meeting looking to bounce back from inter-pro defeats but it will be Leo Cullen’s men who come out of the clash smiling.
Dan McFarland made 11 changes to his Ulster side that lost to Connacht last week, opting to give youth a chance.
But hooker Cronin bagged two early tries to put Leinster in control and any chance of an Ulster fightback was over before it had begun after they conceded just 60 seconds after scoring their only points of the match.
Leinster put their opponents under pressure right from the kick-off and had their first try before a much-changed Ulster side had a hand on the ball.
After 26 phases, Cronin made a break for the line from around five metres out to score his 34th try for the reigning PRO14 champions.
Ciaran Frawley, who came into the game with a 100% record from the tee, made it 7-0 with seven minutes on the clock.
Ulster barely had time to regroup before Cronin scored again, this time making the most of some fantastic offloading to bulldoze over the whitewash and Frawley maintained his perfect record to make it 14-0 after 14 minutes.
The Ulstermen hit back to halve the Leinster lead courtesy of an Adam McBurney try off the back of a maul and an impressive Johnny McPhillips conversion from out wide.
Leinster had a third try straight from the kick-off though, Conor O’Brien dancing through the tackles brilliantly to dot down only for Frawley to put his simplest kick of the match wide.
The bonus point was then secured just before half-time as Andrew Porter scored a pick and go and Frawley found his range once more to put Leinster up 26-7.
Ulster lost Kyle McCall to what looked like a nasty injury and things got worse when Jamison Gibson-Park scored Leinster’s fifth try.
Frawley improved his impressive kicking record with a successful conversion and Leinster were home and dry.
Max Deegan made a last-minute stretch for the line to score a sixth Leinster try but was stopped short. It didn’t matter in the end as a penalty try was awarded from the resulting scrum as the clock ticked into the red.
Tries: Cronin 2, O’Brien, Porter, Gibson-Park
Cons: Frawley 4
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney (captain), 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Conor O’Brien, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Barry Daly, 10 Ciarán Frawley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Max Deegan 7 Scott Penny, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Oisín Dowling, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Jimmy O’Brien.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Rob Lyttle, 13 Darren Cave, 12 James Hume, 11 Angus Kernohan, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Dave Shanahan, 8 N Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 G Jones, 5 Alan O’Connor (captain), 4 Matthew Dalton, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Adam McBurney, 1 Kyle McCall.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Caleb Montgomery, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Johnny Stewart, 22 Bruce Houston, 23 Peter Nelson.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
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