Ulster earn Irish bragging rights
PRO14 REPORT: Marcus Rea scored on his senior debut for Ulster to give them a 14-13 victory and the bragging rights over reigning champions Leinster.
The back-rower was promoted to matchday squad from the academy as both teams made 15 changes to their starting line-ups with their places in the PRO14 Final Series already secured.
Ulster restricted Leinster to a scoreless second-half at the Kingspan Stadium with Rea’s try on the hour mark proving to be the difference between the two sides.
Ross Byrne, who was captaining Leinster for the very first time, produced a stunning double-miss-pass to find full-back Jimmy O’Brien to finish in the corner and break the deadlock.
But Byrne was wayward from the tee in testing conditions and missed the resulting conversion attempt.
And Ulster responded instantly as Darren Cave cut a lovely line and spotted Dave Shanahan on his inside shoulder.
And after the ball was recycled, Michael Lowry did exactly the same for the scrum-half to wriggle his way to the whitewash.
Johnny McPhillips knocked over the conversion to add the extras and put Ulster ahead only for Byrne to find his kicking boots and split the posts with a penalty.
With the clock already ticking over into the red, Byrne slipped while attempting to make a run out wide but with the Leinster forwards doing their jobs and holding onto possession, Noel Reid found Fergus McFadden out wide to cross.
Leinster’s defence went into overdrive in the second-half after Josh Murphy was sent to the sin-bin but after absorbing more than ten minutes of pressure, a simple pick and go from Marcus Rea was enough to undo all the hard work.
Rea had only just entered the fray as a replacement to make his first senior appearance for the club.
Centre Peter Nelson took over the kicking duties for the departed McPhillips to sneak Ulster into a one-point lead.
Leinster rallied for a fightback for the final 20 minutes but it was Ulster’s turn to batten down the hatches and their solid defending was enough to keep their provincial rivals out and earn a hard-fought victory.
Tries: Shanahan 2
Cons: McPhillips, Nelson
Tries: O’Brien, McFadden
Yellow card: Dowling (Leinster, 52)
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry; 14 David Busby, 13 Darren Cave (Captain), 12 Peter Nelson,11 Angus Kernohan; 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Dave Shanahan; 8 Sean Reidy; 7 Clive Ross, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Ian Nagle, 3 Ross Kane, 2 John Andrew, 1 Andy Warwick,
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Tommy O’Hagan, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Nick Timoney, 20 Marcus Rea, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Jack Owens, 23 Rob Lyttle.
Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien; 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Joe Tomane, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney; 10 Ross Byrne(captain), 9 Nick McCarthy; 8 Caelan Doris , 7 Will Connors, 6 Max Deegan, 5 Oisín Dowling, 4 Josh Murphy,3 Michael Bent, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Jack McGrath,
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Scott Penny, 21 Paddy Patterson, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Barry Daly
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), Eddie Hogan O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)