Leinster make it a winning start for Leo Cullen against Ulster
Leinster looked more efficient and organised, in a game with wholesale changes made at half-time
Leinster’s Jack Conan scores a try against Ulster during their pre-season friendly at Kinsgpan Stadium, Belfast. Photograph: Inpho
Leinster coach Leo Cullen before his side’s pre-season friendly at Kinsgpan Stadium, Belfast. Photograph: Inpho
Ulster 21 Leinster 24
Leo Cullen’s tenure as Leinster coach began in ideal style with his shadow squad, a mixture of youth and some notable experience, coming away from Belfast with a well-deserved result.
In a first pre-season hit-out for both sides, Leinster always looked that bit more efficient and organised, in a game with wholesale changes made at half-time, and won through tries from Adam Byrne, Jack Conan, Dan Leavy and Bryan Byrne with Isa Nacewa looking sharp on his return and kicking two conversions.
Leinster trailed 14-5 at half-time but made enough of the running when it mattered in the second 40 minutes to start things off nicely ahead of next week’s final friendly with Moseley.
Leinster opened up with a try after just four minutes from winger Adam Byrne which originated from Jamie Hagan’s line bust and ended up with the ball shovelled out to the right wing.
Cathal Marsh missed the extras but Cullen’s squad were out of the blocks early with some interest and should have added to their total just after the quarter of an hour mark when Byrne burst through and helped Ben Te’o on his way towards the line.
The ball was recycled right but Billy Dardis knocked-on with a try beckoning had he caught and delivered to the waiting Byrne.
That spurned chance perhaps played on Leinster’s minds as Ulster, hardly looking sharp either, gradually ground their way into the game.
Then with five minutes remaining, an increasingly inaccurate Leinster were turned over in their own half and Luke Marshall hared his way to the line after breaking two tackles out on the wing. Humphreys again converted and the home side led 14-5 at the break.
As already flagged by the size of both squads, there was pretty much wholesale change was made to both starting sides.
And, again, Leinster started strongly with the returning Isa Nacewa getting an early carry and then Jack Conan barging over for a 42nd minute try.
Steve Crosbie, on for Marsh, missed the conversion but Leinster now trailed by four points and with Stephen Mulholland binned shortly afterwards for a high tackle, Ulster now had to make do with 14-men for 10 minutes.
Leinster immediately hit back with Dan Leavy crashing over from a rolling maul with Nacewa converting to give them a 17-14 lead.
Five minutes later Leinster had their fourth when, again from a rolling maul, Bryan Byrne touched down with Nacewa converting to give the visitors a 24-14 lead.
And that is how it stayed until the 80th minute when Sam Arnold crashed over and Sam Windsor’s conversion ended it all.
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 Mullholland, 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 Hagan, 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, G Ringrose, B Byrne, E Byrne, R Molony, M McCarthy, D Leavy, J Conan, R Byrne, M McGrath, C O’Shea, I Nacewa.
Referee: A Brace (Ulster)