A FEAST of running rugby in the Aviva Stadium – unfortunately for anyone hoping for a competitive opening encounter in the O2 Challenge, all of it came from one side.
A stadium for the future aptly hosted some of Irish rugby’s hottest properties, with all the players on both sides aged 18-20. But few on the combined Connacht/Munster side will recall the occasion with any great fondness.
Whereas their Leinster/Ulster counterparts seemed to always be on the same page, the Connacht/Munster outfit rarely appeared to be reading the same book.
Dungannon wing Craig Gilroy made his own piece of history by scoring the first try on the new turf, collecting Paddy Jackson’s cross-kick to score after five minutes.
That was the first of six tries in the opening half, which had Leinster/Ulster out of sight at the break thanks to their slick hands and assertiveness.
Andrew Boyle and skipper Luke Marshall both claimed braces for Leinster/Ulster all too easily, while Jackson – the creative fulcrum and the game’s outstanding talent – banged over all six conversions.
Marshall wasn’t far behind, conducting matters in midfield and consistently brushing off weak Connacht/Munster tackling.
Despite some increased second-half resistance from Connacht/Munster, Boyle had the new ground’s first hat-trick to his name just before the hour mark, and substitutes Conor Spence and Michael McAuley put the icing on the cake with a late try each.
Scorers for Leinster/Ulster: A Boyle 3 tries; C Gilroy, L Marshall 2 tries each; S Coghlan Murray, C Spence, M McAuley try each; P Jackson 6 cons; C Marsh 3 cons.
LEINSTER/ULSTER: S Coghlan Murray (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), A Kelly (Leinster), L Marshall (Ulster) Capt, A Boyle (Leinster); P Jackson (Ulster), P du Toit (Leinster); J Tracy (Leinster), J Murphy (Ulster), M Moore (Leinster); I Henderson (Ulster), R Hynes (Leinster); S Lecky (Ulster), M McGroarty (Leinster), D McGuigan (Ulster).
Replacements: M Fallon (Leinster) for Hynes (46), P Marks (Ulster) for Henderson, A Warrick for Lecky (both h/t), C Spence for du Toit, C Marsh for Jackson (both 55), P Carroll for McGroarty (56), M McAuley for Coghlan Murray (65).
CONNACHT/MUNSTER: C Boland (Connacht); T Leader (Connacht), D Horgan (Munster), B Sargent (Munster), S Leydon (Connacht); J Holland (Munster), M Dolan (Connacht, capt); A Spring (Connacht), K Stokes (Munster), P Mullen (Munster); R O’Herlihy (Munster), D O’Mahony (Munster); S Buckley (Munster), A Conneely (Connacht), D Qualter (Connacht).
Replacements: G Quinn-McDonogh (Munster) for Horgan (35, inj), S Wooton (Connacht) for Qualter (34), J Rael for Conneely, D Heffernan (Connacht) for O’Herlihy (both h/t), C Quinn (Munster) for Sargent (55), I Mullarkey (Munster) for O’Mahoney, J Costigan (Munster) for Leydon, R Barry (Munster) for Dolan (all 72).
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU).