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Damp squib from Ulster as Larmour sparks Leinster win

Without a line-out and a meaningful kicking game, Ulster were unable to build pressure on the eastern province.

Ulster 10

Leinster 25

Sean Farrell reports from Kingspan Stadium

FIREWORKS CRACKLED OVER Belfast throughout what ought to have been a hotly-contested inter-pro that fizzled out in a haze of set-piece errors from the hosts.

Ulster’s line-out ended the night with just 10 successes from 16, and with little in the way of a kicking game they had to rely on big moments to put any pressure on Leinster. And Leo Cullen’s young but in-form blues happily picked off the win with tries from Jordan Larmour before a double from replacement Luke McGrath.

Tempers flare between both sides Source: Darren Kidd/INPHO

The match wasn’t lacking heart early on as some feisty exchanges brought about a few shirt-grabbing contests,

Noel Reid, James Ryan and Jean Deysel were early casualties to the physicality. Reid’s departure meant that Jordan Larmour was called upon to play 78 minutes in midfield. With Rory O’Loughlin shifting to inside centre, it left Leinster playing a 10-12-13 axis averaging 21 years of age.

A night for young men then. Jacob Stockdale and Adam Byrne’s personal battle was an interesting sub-plot and featured a terrific aerial contest which saw both men clamp two hands around the ball, pitting them into a wrestling match that saw Stockdale eventually triumph.

However, it was Larmour who produced the on-field fireworks on 15 minutes, using Byrne as a decoy on the right wing before ghosting past Iain Henderson with a sumptuous step and escaping Aaron Cairns to power over the try-line next to the posts.

Jordan Larmour scores a try Source: Darren Kidd/INPHO

Ulster reclaimed the lead before the half hour, Christian Lealiifano’s glorious long pass to Tommy Bowe and the wing’s seamless reverse ball to Charles Piutau didn’t quite manage to puncture Leinster’s defence. But after being held up, the subsequent scrum did its job, allowing Sean Reidy the platform to charge through Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park and over the line.

Ross Byrne tied the game almost instantly after the restart and clipped a penalty over to give Leinster a 10 – 13 half-time lead. Though Ulster could be pleased enough with that outcome as the closing stages of the first 40 were a time for clinging on. The hosts scrambled their defence well to continually force one more pass, one more decision from Leinster’s back-line.

Having started off quite promisingly, the second half just brought more momentum leaks from Ulster with a combination of mis-placed passes and a series of woeful line-out malfunctions that left them with just a 50% return at the hour.

By that point, Leinster had extended their lead as Devin Toner picked up a loose ball in midfield and spun it towards the right wing where Adam Byrne raided the channel, Sean O’Brien powered on and whipped a sublime pass to put McGrath into the corner to silence a capacity crowd of 17,641 in Kingspan Stadium.

Luke McGrath celebrates his try with Jordi Murphy Source: Darren Kidd/INPHO

That Dave Kearney watched his team score from the sin-bin only compounded the disappointment for Ulster.

When the wing returned, the wind had well and truly abandoned Ulster’s sails. And as the benches were emptied and thoughts turned to either Ireland camp or the northern province’s trip to South Africa, all that was left was for McGrath to sneak under the posts and score his second try.

Scorers

Ulster

Tries: S Reidy

Conversions: C Lealiifano (1/1)

Penalties: C Lealiifano (1/1)

Leinster

Tries: J Larmour, L McGrath (2)

Conversions: R Byrne (1/2) C Marsh (1/1)

Penalties: R Byrne (2/3)

Ulster: Charles Piutau;  Tommy Bowe,  Luke Marshall,  Stuart McCloskey (Louis Ludik ’69), Jacob Stockdale; Christian Lealiifano (Peter Nelson ’66), Aaron Cairns (Jonny Stewart ’61): Callum Black (Andy Warwick ’55),  Rory Best (Rob Herring ’55), Rodney Ah You (Ross Kane ’73), Alan O’Connor (Kieran Treadwell ’66); Iain Henderson, Sean Reidy, Chris Henry, Jean Deysel (Robbie Diack ’16).

Leinster:  Rob Kearney;  Adam Byrne,  Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid (Joran Larmour ’2),  Dave Kearney, Ross Byrne (Cathal Marsh ’77), Jamison Gibson-Park (Luke McGrath ’55):  Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’47), James Tracy (Richardt Strauss ’66), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’60), Devin Toner, James Ryan (Ross Molony ’12), Dan Leavy (Jack Conan ’56), Jordi Murphy, Seán O’Brien.

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Sean Farrell

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