Leinster 38 Ulster 29
A red card for Leinster prop Cian Healy after 21 minutes changed the complexion of the United Rugby League top two meeting in the RDS. Healy’s high tackle on Ulster hooker Tom Stewart was judged to be dangerous and the collision went to the TMO.
While the crowd might have expected a card, consultation between the RFU’s referee Christophe Ridley and TMO Rowan Kitt concluded a red was the correct sanction and Healy walked. Stewart did not return to play.
But in a sometimes hectic match, it was Leinster in the end that played a dominant second half to outscore Ulster five tries to four and bag their ninth win from nine outings.
Following Healy’s dismissal, Leinster quickly removed Jimmy O’Brien to put on Andrew Porter and maintain the pack. But the change had the home side uncomfortable with Ulster taking full advantage.
Ross Byrne and John Cooney had earlier exchanged penalties for 3-3. But Ulster were merciless. A penalty kicked to touch a couple of minutes later Rob Herring, who had replaced the injured Stewart, peeled off the maul after Kieran Treadwell had gathered and Cooney converted for 3-10.
On 28 minutes a similar move and another Ulster attacking lineout pinned Leinster to their line. After multiphases, lock Treadwell muscled his way over with Cooney again converting for 3-17.
The Ulster third try of the first half came from a counter attack when Jason Jenkins was stripped of the ball by Stuart McCloskey. Ulster put the ball out to wing Stewart Moore. Centre Jamie Osbourne flattened Moore but not before he had timed his pass out to Ethan McIlroy on a free run down the line for 3-22.
Between 21 and 34 minutes Ulster had blitzed Leinster with three tries.
Leinster hit back on the 40-minute mark and again the lineout maul proved effective, Leinster piling over with hooker Ronan Kelleher on the end and Byrne converting to close for halftime 10-22.
Leinster were eight wins from eight going into the game, Ulster six wins from seven, their only defeat to Leinster in the third round of matches.
But Leinster in the second half appeared to have adjusted and brought a sense of real urgency to their play. Then just before the hour they struck.
With Ulster under pressure, captain Garry Ringrose received the ball 10m out and as he darted towards the gap James Hume came in high and struck the centre with his head.
Ringrose spun out for the try and 17-22 with Byrne converting. But Hume was shown yellow. Nick Timoney minutes later was also binned leaving the numbers at Leinster 14 players and Ulster 13.
Then just after the hour as Leinster sensed weakness they pressed and struck again, captain Ringrose sprinting through the stretched defence for 24-22. Porter then muscled his way over as Leinster set the mood in their home ground.
As if to herald his first game back after the summer tour James Lowe also got in on the scoring on the 76th minute, Leinster in the end changing a match around from rattled and back pedalling to sprinting over the finish line with plenty to spare despite a later Sam Carter try.
Scoring Sequence – 3 mins R Byrne pen 3-0; 9 mins J Cooney pen 3-3; 22 mins R Herring try, Cooney con 3-10; 28 mins K Treadwell try, Cooney con 3-17; 34 mins E McIlroy try 3-22; 40 mins R Keller try, Byrne con 10-22. Halftime. 58 mins G Ringrose try, Byrne con 17-22; 63 mins G Ringrose try, Byrne con 24-22; 73 mins A Porter try Byrne con; 76 mins J Lowe try, Byrne con 38-22; 80 mins S Catre try, N Doak con 38-29.
Leinster: H Keenan; J O’Brien, G Ringrose ©, J Osbourne, J Lowe; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; C Healy, R Kelleher, M Ala’alatoa, J Jenkins, J Ryan, R Baird, J van der Flier, J Conan.
Replacements – A Porter for O’Brien 24 mins; D Sheehan, T Furlong for Kelleher and Ala’altoa 45 mins; C Doris for Conan 56 mins; 66 mins R Moloney for Jenkins; 72 N McCarthy for Gibson Park; Turner for Ringrose 76 mins; C Tector for Byrne 77 mins.
Red card: C Healy red 20 mins
Ulster: M Lowry; E McIlroy, J Hume, S McCloskey, S Moore; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, T Stewart, M Moore, A O’Connor, K Treadwell, I Henderson ©, M Rea, N Timoney.
Replacements – Rob Herring for Stewart 20 mins; N Doak for Cooney 45 mins; T O’Toole and S Carter for Moore and Treadwell 51 mins; D Vermuelen for Henderson 56 mins. J Stockdale for Hume 70 mins. C Reid for Warwick 72 mins; M Rea for Timoney 75 mins
Yellow cards: J Hume 58, N Timoney 62
Referee: C Ridley (RFU)