Leinster battle back to give Leo Cullen fine start

Ulster 21 Leinster 24: A little half-time word in the ears of his charges gave new Leinster head coach Leo Cullen a perfect start to his tenure with what was in the end a comfortable warm-up victory over Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium last night.

Leinster battle back to give Leo Cullen fine start

The home side, playing in a fetching all-azure kit, had taken at 14-5 half-time lead and looked in control before Cullen’s side came out with all guns blasting in the second half to take over the game.

With trademark breakdown work which often saw Ulster struggle, solid scrummaging and fast, accurate passing, Cullen will be happy his mix of experience and youth did the business.

Once Leinster quelled Ulster’s initial foray into their territory they proceeded to pour on pressure at the other end with some neat passing. With the back-row asserting their presence at the breakdown and skipper Tony Ryan involved in ost things, Leinster forged ahead in the fifth minute with the lively Luke McGrath floating out a long pass for right wing Adam Byrne to saunter over in the corner.

Tackling at times was tentative with players getting used to new systems. Ulster’s defence at times was soft and the strong-running Ben Te’o rumbled through one big hole in a 30-metre dash to the line, only to be caught 15 metres out. It was very much even in the middle of the opening half with set-pieces going to plan as both teams searched for their second wind. It the sharpness of Paul Marshall who helped put Ulster into the lead in the 32nd minute with another quick-fire penalty to surge over with Ian Humphreys converting.

With Leinster appearing to tire and their earlier poise appearing to drop, Ulster surged further ahead with Ireland international centre Luke Marshall showing a quick turn of speed along the right-hand touchline to leave a couple of would-be Leinster tacklers on their back to score wide out. Humphreys’s conversion saw Ulster change over 14-5 to the good.

But whatever coach Cullen said at half-time certainly stirred the groins of his side when they forged 10 points ahead within 15 minutes of the restart with three tries. All fairly easily executed. First-up was the bulky international prop Jack Cronin who surged over with some ease and that was followed by Daniel Leavy before Brian Byrne was at the end of a line-out drive for his side’s fourth try. The returning Leinster favourite Isa Nacewa banged over two conversions as the scoreline turned around to 24-14 in the visitor’s favour.

Ulster finally shrugged off their lethargy midway through the second-half, but a promising spell was halted near the Leinster line with yet another infringement at the breakdown - an area where the visitors were superior. Ulster did have the final say with the impressive Jacob Stockton going over with Sam Windsor adding the extras.

Scorers for Ulster - Tries:

P Marshall, L Marshall, Stockton; Cons: Humphreys 2, Windsor.

Leinster - Tries:

A Byrne, Cronin, Leavy, B Byrne; Conversions: Nacewa 2

ULSTER:

J Owens; C Gilroy, D Cave, L Marshall, P Nelson; I Humphreys, P Marshall; R Murphy, R Herring, capt, W Herbst; P Browne, F Van der Merwe; C Ross, S Reidy, R Diack.

Replacements:

A Warwick, J Andrew, R Lutton, B Ross, A O’Connor, D Tuohy, C Joyce, F Taggart, W Faloon, S Mulholland, P Rowley, D Shanahan, S Windsor, J Stockdale, S McCloskey, S Arnold, L Ludik, M Best.

LEINSTER:

B Dardis; D Fanning, N Reid, B Te’o, A Byrne; C Marsh, L McGrath; P Dooley, J Tracy, J Hagen, T Beirne, T Denton, D Ryan, capt, J van der Flier, T Ryan.

Replacements:

A Dundon, J Loughman, R Burke-Flynn, G Thornbury, P Timmins, N McCarthy, S Crosbie, B Byrne, E Byrne, R Molony, M McCarthy, D Leavy, J Conan, R Byrne, M McGrath, C O’Shea, I Nacewa.

Referee:

Andy Brace (IRFU).

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