Match Report: Leinster Rugby 8-3 Ulster Rugby

Nick Williams

Nick Williams played well, but Ulster still lost 8-3

On a cold and windy Friday night in Dublin it was Leinster who edged a dour and low-scoring interprovincial affair against Ulster, winning 8-3 at the RDS in their Guinness PRO12 clash.

A try from a driving maul, accredited to hooker Sean Cronin, was the difference between the two teams as Jonathan Sexton and Paddy Jackson landed a penalty each in the game which only yielded eleven points.

In truth though it was obvious that the game was played by two teams low on confidence and low on ideas as both sides made too many mistakes, and as a result it was a poor spectacle.

Sexton got his side off to the perfect start after just four minutes when he slotted over his effort on goal, while opposite number Jackson pulled an effort wide in reply a few minutes later.

Jackson banished the poor kick from his mind and drew the visitors level a few minutes after that with his only penalty of the night and from there the game descended into mediocracy.

Leinster, playing into the wind, had a lot more of possession and it was surprising when Sexton turned down numerous kicks at goal to instead focus on going to the corner, especially whenever his side’s set piece was letting them down.

On more than one occasion Ulster were able to compete and steal the ball off Cronin’s throw and clear their lines, and even when they didn’t they were always equal to whatever their hosts could throw at them, although they did have to survive a TMO scare.

But Leinster were knocking on the door and eventually it opened. A perfectly set 5m driving maul peeled off to the side and from there it was a formality to walk it over, with Cronin popping up and receiving the plaudits.

Sexton uncharacteristically pulled the kick wide, which would turn out to be his last meaningful contribution of the game as he was replaced just after half-time by Noel Reid, the Irish fly-half having picked up an injury.

After the break Ben Te’o was guilty of passing up a glorious opportunity to put his team more than a score ahead as a break into the Ulster red zone created the space out wide for the centre only for Te’o to spill the ball on the line under no pressure.

Luckily his mistake was not to cost him as Ulster, like Leinster in the first half, turned down opportunities to go for goal in favour of punting it to the corner, but their driving maul was repulsed by the Leinster defence.

And from there Leinster were able to hold out with relative ease as Ulster struggled to break through the blue wall in front of them with Andrew Trimble’s charge down the wing the best they could muster for the rest of the game.

With the clock in the red Les Kiss’ men did launch one final assault from their own 22 and made it up all the way to Leinster’s 10m line but ultimately a knock on from Chris Henry ended the game and any chance of the visitors snatching an unlikely win.

 

The scorers

For Leinster

Try: Cronin

Pen: Sexton

For Ulster

Pen: Jackson

 

LEINSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Isa Nacewa, Zane Kirchner, Ben Te’o, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald, Jonathan Sexton, Luke McGrath; (1-8) Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: James Tracy, Peter Dooley, Martin Moore, Ross Molony, Dominic Ryan, Eoin Reddan, Noel Reid, Garry Ringrose.

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Peter Nelson, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; (1-8) Kyle McCall, Rory Best, Wiehahn Herbst, Iain Henderson, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Ricky Lutton, Roger Wilson, Chris Henry, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Louis Ludik.

 

Man of the Match: Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster)

Referee: John Lacey (Ire)