Leinster overcome Ulster in 96-point thriller

Leinster didn’t even need to send out their first team to do this damage — Cullen made 13 changes to the side that hammered Northampton Saints last week in the Champions Cup

Leinster overcome Ulster in 96-point thriller

[team1]Leinster[/team1][score1]54[/score1][team2]Ulster[/team2][score2]42[/score2][/score]

Ulster scored a record 42 points in the RDS — and still went home as losers.

That’s how it is with Leinster these days, with Leo Cullen’s men racking up their 12th win in a row, with the try bonus point wrapped up even before the half hour mark arrived.

These interprovincial “clashes” are becoming harder to sell, but there was plenty of entertainment last night— even if the scoreline struggles to fully explain how superior Leinster were.

Leinster didn’t even need to send out their first team to do this damage — Cullen made 13 changes to the side that hammered Northampton Saints last week in the Champions Cup, but they were still head and shoulders above Dan McFarland’s youthful side, who finished strongly.

In fairness, the northerners retained just one player from their own recent European adventure, but the gap in talent was exposed and they simply had no answers for the tempo, sharpness and intensity of the hosts.

Leinster have not lost to any Irish province at the RDS since 2013, and with a try inside the third minute last night, it was clear they weren’t going to change that habit.

Cian Kelleher made a good break down the right wing into the Ulster 22 and, as they did all night, Leinster recycled with pace, and the No 8 wriggled past two defenders to touch down under the posts.

Ulster levelled the tie within five minutes to give the small pocket of travelling fans something to cheer, but the score would not stall the home side’s momentum.

From a maul on the right wing, Ulster went cross field, with Rob Lyttle’s long pass finding Angus Kernohan out wide. That pass took Rob Kearney out of the game and the winger stepped inside Fergus McFadden to touch down.

The game quickly returned to its earlier pattern and Scott Penny scored two tries in seven minutes to twist the screw. Both scores came from close range, with Ulster simply incapable of stopping the hosts once they entered their 22, with Gibson-Park’s quick passing and strong support from Peter Dooley helping push the young flanker over the line.

In between, Matt Faddes was yellow-carded for what the referee adjudged to be a high tackle on Tommy O’Brien, and Ulster were hit once more moments later when Rob Lyttle left the field through injury, with 19 year old Ethan McIlroy coming off the bench for his Ulster debut - one of four on the night.

The bonus point was sealed two minutes before the half hour mark, with Harry Byrne – impressive all round – landing a cross field kick in Robbie Henshaw’s hands for an easy run home.

The game was all but over as a contest now, but Faddes, back on the pitch, broke the monotony with a break away try from inside his own half after a Gibson-Park fumble.

But Leinster could not even give the visitors the last word before half time, with McFadden diving over the line from close range to grab his side’s fifth try.

The teams switched sides at half time, but the play continued in one direction.

Byrne, once again, showed his attacking class with a long skip pass finding Rob Kearney out wide, giving the full back his first try of the season.

But if that assist was good, McFadden’s four minutes later put it in the shade. With a penalty in the bag, the winger sent a glorious cross kick into Cian Kelleher’s arms, and the former Connacht man raced home from half way.

The tries kept coming - 14 in all by full time - and somehow Ulster went home with a bonus point after Craig Gilroy, Greg Jones (2) and Jonny Stewart crossed the line in the final 20 minutes.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Tommy O’Brien (Ciarán Frawley, 70), Robbie Henshaw (Conor O’Brien, 62) Cian Kelleher, Harry Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park (Hugh O’Sullivan, 60); Peter Dooley (Cian Healy, 50), Seán Cronin (Bryan Byrne, 52) Andrew Porter (Roman Salanoa, 57), Scott Fardy (c) (Oisín Dowling, 57), Josh Murphy, Will Connors (Josh van der Flier, 50-66), Scott Penny, Max Deegan.

ULSTER: Rob Lyttle (Ethan McIlroy, 24), Craig Gilroy, Matt Faddes (Stewart Moore, 51), Angus Curtis (Azur Allison, 52), Angus Kernohan, Bill Johnston, David Shanahan (Jonny Stewart, 73); Andrew Warwick (Kyle McCall, 56), Adam McBurney (John Andrew, 56), Tom O’Toole (Ross Kane, 56), David O’Connor, Alan O’Connor (c) (Jack Regan, 69), Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, Greg Jones.

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)

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