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Johnston kicks 17 points as Ulster A notch impressive win over Leinster

Aaron Sexton scored two tries from fullback, while captain David McCann was superb for Ulster.

Ulster 37

Leinster 14

BILL JOHNSTON KICKED 17 points as Ulster A notched an impressive four-try win over Leinster A at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

conor-mcmenamin-celebrates-with-marcus-rea-after-he-won-a-penalty Ulster A were excellent in an impressive win over Leinster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Captain David McCann was among the impressive performers with another exciting display in the number eight jersey for an Ulster team coached by Kieran Campbell, the new Ireland U20s boss.

While Leinster briefly made a game of it with two second-half tries to draw back to within two points, Ulster were clearly the better team. Pacy fullback Aaron Sexton finished two of their tries, while prop Callum Reid scored an excellent individual effort.

Having beaten Leinster A at the RDS last September, this was another well-earned victory in which 23-year-old former Munster man Johnston showed his relative experience with a classy performance in which he kicked superbly out of hand as well having a 100% return off the tee.

Noel McNamara’s Leinster side dotted down through skipper Jack Dunne and centre Liam Turner but they struggled for fluidity in attack and had damaging lineout issues. 

This latest A team victory for Ulster in this entertaining game underlined that the northern province has some real talent coming through their ranks.

dan-sheehan-and-sean-obrien-tackle-cormac-izuchukwu Cormac Izuchukwu impressed for Ulster A. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ulster deservedly led 9-0 at half time after an impressive 40 minutes in which out-half Johnston slotted three penalties.

The first came in the 17th minute just after the highly promising McCann – who was the Ireland U20 captain last year – very nearly set up wing Conor Rankin for a try with a skillful grubber kick.

While the Leinster lineout struggled to give the visitors a platform, Ulster’s forwards were impactful around the pitch, with their footwork and handling skills allowing them to make consistent progress over the gainline, with second row Cormac Izuchukwu – who developed in the Ireland 7s programme – standing out. 

Johnston extended the lead in the 27th min soon before wing Ben Moxham went close to scoring in the right corner, with former Ireland captain Rory Best watching on as part of the Ulster A coaching staff.

Ex-Munster man Johnston made it 9-0 coming towards the break and Ulster ended the half with a strong defensive stand in their own 22, flanker Harry Sheridan earning an important turnover in the tackle to lift the siege.

bill-johnston-kicks-a-penalty Bill Johnston was superb off the tee. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With senior tighthead Tom O’Toole introduced off the bench as he bids to build game time before a possible Six Nations call-up from Ireland, Ulster looked to pick up where they left off and scored the first try of the game within minutes of the restart.

A beautiful first-phase score from a scrum 40 metres out saw McCann, inside centre Ben Carson, and scrum-half Nathan Doak combine to send impressive outside centre Hayden Hyde bursting through for a clean linebreak and his one-handed offload gave Sexton the chance to finish.

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With Johnston converting, Ulster led 16-0 but Leinster found a swift response as their forwards made their presence felt with a series of grinding close-range phases before captain Dunne picked and forced his way over, with Greg McGrath and Dan Sheehan latching on.

Out-half David Hawkshaw converted and was soon adding a second conversion after an instant impact by replacement scrum-half Paddy Patterson, who sniped down the right-hand side, played a one-two with flanker Seán O’Brien, then offloaded inside for Turner to score.

bill-johnston-nathan-doak-and-marcus-rea-tackle-ryan-baird Ryan Baird makes a carry for Leinster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But Ulster had their second try heading into the final quarter as sub loosehead Reid – who recently made his senior debut against Munster in the Pro14 – came up with an excellent solo try from nearly 30 metres out, stepping past O’Brien and then bouncing back to his feet after Max O’Reilly’s tackle to dive over.

Johnston converted again, then delightfully set up Sexton’s second try in the 66th minute, taking an offload from Hyde to burst through and brilliantly grubber-kicking off the outside of his right boot on the move to allow the fullback to regather and dot down in the corner.

Clonmel man Johnston nailed the touchline conversion before flanker Marcus Rea barrelled over from close range late on for Ulster’s fourth try, with the out-half again converting from wide on the left.

Ulster A scorers:

Tries: Aaron Sexton [2], Callum Reid, Marcus Read

Conversions: Bill Johnston [4 from 4]

Penalties: Bill Johnston [3 from 3]

Leinster A scorers:

Tries: Jack Dunne, Liam Turner

Conversions: David Hawkshaw [2 from 2]

ULSTER A: Aaron Sexton; Ben Moxham, Hayden Hyde, Ben Carson, Conor Rankin; Bill Johnston, Nathan Doak; Gareth Milasinovich, Adam McBurney, Ross Kane; Cormac Izuchukwu, Conor McMenamin; Harry Sheridan, Marcus Rea, David McCann (captain).

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Reuben Crothers, James McCormick, Lewis Finlay, James Humphreys.

LEINSTER A: Max O’Reilly; Cian Kelleher, Jamie Osborne, Liam Turner, Niall Comerford; David Hawkshaw, Cormac Foley; Marcus Hanan, Dan Sheehan, Greg McGrath; Joe McCarthy, Jack Dunne (captain); Ryan Baird, Seán O’Brien, Alex Soroka.

Replacements: Lee Barron, Jack Boyle, Tom Clarkson, Mark Morrissey, Mark Hernan, Patrick Patterson, Tim Corkery, Chris Cosgrave.

Referee: Peter Martin.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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