Ulster's dominant scrum paves the way for sweet victory over Leinster
Ulster 27 Leinster 19:It was always likely that Ulster were going to be more motivated and inspired by a raucous Ravenhill than a comparatively skeletal and slightly toothless Leinster. And with a dominant scrum, which yielded 13 points, so Ulster recorded only their second win in the last 18 meetings and sixth in the last 32 dating back to 1995.
The net effect was to cement their place atop the Rabo Direct Pro12 table and open up a 16-point buffer over Leinster, who will be without all their Irish front-liners for next Saturday’s visit of Connacht, in addition to their expanding injury list. Suffering their third successive defeat and nursing something of a Euro hangover from their beatings by Clermont, they occasionally went through the phases but rarely create a one-on-one for Andrew Conway or any of the other backs until manufacturing a late try.
Afterwards, Joe Schmidt revealed that Eoin O’Malley and Dave Kearney suffered soft tissue injuries in training last Wednesday, but despite Brian O’Driscoll’s doubts to the contrary, the Leinster management haven’t given up hope on him making it back for the last two Euro pool games, while Rob Kearney might return in a fortnight against Edinburgh.
“It would be nice to get back some of our experienced guys just to give us a sense of calm out there as well,” said Schmidt, who conceded Ulster deserved to win, though he felt his side merited a bonus point. Schmidt admitted that his uncapped and unused 18-year-old replacement, Adam Byrne, thought his call from the coach on Thursday was a prank, and that confidence had been affected by these challenging times.
“Certainly we had some good support again tonight. It hasn’t been a great three weeks for us but I’d ask them for a bit of patience and not to jump ship yet. I still think we’re a good side. I think we can dig ourselves out of a hole. That’s what we’re going to roll our sleeves up and do after Christmas hopefully.”
Mark Anscombe was proud of his team’s performance, even if their initial kicking game was poor. “It’s not often we beat Leinster and it’s something we feel good about. Our scrum was outstanding but I think we were a bit tentative in the first 20-25 minutes. We looked as though we didn’t quite believe in ourselves against them but as time progressed we just built a little self-belief, things started to happen and I think we controlled the game in the end.”