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That Madigan magic and more talking points from Leinster's win over Ulster

Ulster go back up the M1 licking their wounds while Leinster end the seasonal inter-pros in the playoff places.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Leinster’s back row production line continues

LEINSTER AND IRELAND’S number eight – for so long an apparently indestructible object – was replaced after 30 minutes with a shoulder injury.

Jamie Heaslip’s side had already cut Shane Jennings out of the match-day squad due to a hamstring injury and so (depending on the seriousness of the problem) Matt O’Connor’s back-row options could be stretched in the upcoming Champions Cup fixtures.

With that in mind the performance of both Jack Conan and Josh van der Flier will give Matt O’Connor and Leo Cullen  confidence that the young prospects can perform at this level.

That Madigan magic

With Jonathan Sexton ruled out of the opening game of the Six Nations, this was a chance for Paddy Jackson to put his name back to the front of Joe Schmidt’s thinking. Instead, though, Ian Madigan pulled further clear in the race to start against Italy.

Ian Madigan kicks a penalty Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Madigan’s opportunistic try just after the break was typical of the invention he is capable of. He enjoyed the benefit of having an experienced midfield combination outside him to help control the game, but also chipped in with an excellent second half touch-finder to prove that he can also perform the more traditional role of a number 10.

Pienaar still to find rhythm

The distance from which Ruan Pienaar can punish teams by putting points on the board has been a key element in Ulster’s success over recent years. In the first half he provided a perfect example of that with a 49 metre kick to open the scoring.

Jack Conan and Jamie Heaslip tackle Ruan Pienaar Source: James Crombie/INPHO

However, the Springbok would kick just one more score and finished the day with a 40% ratio having missed three. To keep the heat on Leinster in the play-off places, Ulster will need their star import at full tilt.

Momentum shift?

Two wins from three over the festive inter-pro period is a decent return and coming out the other side in the league’s top four is an ever better one for Leinster.

Though the performance at one point in the first half descended in to farce with a litany of errors, the late onslaught as Leinster pushed to seal the game should give coaches and supporters alike reasons to be cheerful for the upcoming Champions Cup clashes. In a winter of discontent, there were even a few flashes of brilliance from the back-line, though the second half move with deep runners and pop passes did not ultimately yield a try.

Here’s the cheeky Madigan try that put Leinster in control against Ulster

Heaslip injury a concern for Leinster after win over Ulster

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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