Leinster win marred by Sean O’Brien injury

Ireland international facing lengthy spell on the sidelines after dislocating his shoulder

Leinster 19 Ulster 6: That Seán O'Brien required prolonged treatment on the field before hobbling off with a suspected dislocated shoulder will overshadow everything else from tonight's competent Leinster victory against an under-strength Ulster.

Starting only his seventh game of the season, O’Brien has been dogged by niggily injuries of late. This, initially at least, looked more serious than that.

The opening Six Nations fixture at home to Scotland is a mere five weeks away. At least Ulster flanker Chris Henry is expected back by then.

A dour opening half hour only served to remind the full house at the Royal Dublin Society of the wintry conditions. And their roaring fires at home.


It wasn't all drudgery mind, Leinster were dominating both possession and territory but the rewards were slow in arriving as Jimmy Gopperth missed two from three penalty shots.

In contrast, Paddy Jackson nailed the two penalties that came his way, in the opening exchanges and on 33 minutes, to make it 6-3; Jordi Murphy and temporary replacement Mike Ross both guilty of infringements on the ground.

That was a constant feature of the contest. Spoiling with both sides falling foul of John Lacey. Ulster's stand-in captain Robbie Diack was particularly effective over the tackler. So was O'Brien until injury struck.

In fairness to the former Munster winger, who has bravely turned to officiating, he called it as he saw it, doing a decent job despite nonsensical heckling from the crowd.

Murphy may have coughed up the early three points but he was superb with ball in hand or as the muscle behind the first up Leinster carrier.

Possessing all the attributes needed to play Number Eight, having been the outstanding performer in three Blackrock College packs (2007-09), the 22-year-old’s time appears to be now.

It was Murphy who ensured Leinster disappeared for the break in the ascendancy.

Granted, Ulster were a man short as Sydney born openside Sean Doyle was sin-binned for lying on Leinster's side of the ruck. Doyle will have the marks all over his torso in the morning to prove it. It seemed a harsh call but Lacey had warned Diack on numerous occasions.

From the resulting lineout Luke Fitzgerald - another outstanding performing tonight - tested the short side defence, freeing his hands to put Murphy careering down on Ricky Andrew and Andrew Trimble.

The winger and fullback couldn’t stop the big backrow.

Gopperth rediscovered his groove to land the touchline conversion and Leinster were away.

A Gopperth penalty not long into the second half made it a two score game.

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe, sensing matters were slipping away, sent in the cavalry of Ruan Pienaar and Jared Payne.

But what Ulster needed was the muscle up front to match Leinster’s unrelenting march into their territory. Mainly due to injury, it isn’t available at the moment.

Leinster reserves seem limitless. Especially in the backrow. O'Brien is helped off and Dominic Ryan arrives into the fray.

Within moments Ryan, assisted by Rhys Ruddock, choke tackled Dan Tuohy to earn a turnover.

A few scrums later and Marty Moore screwed Tom Court into the dirt to allow Gopperth make it a 10 point margin.

Ryan also made a crucial turnover as Ulster came in search of a losing bonus point to erase any memories of the last week’s fumble in Edinburgh.

The victory puts them three clear of Ulster in the Pro 12 table but it’s the O’Brien injury that lingers.

Scoring sequence - 2 mins: P Jackson pen, 0-3; 5 mins: J Gopperth pen, 3-3; 33 mins: P Jackson pen, 3-6; 36 mins: J Murphy try, 8-6; J Gopperth conv, 10-6. 49 mins: J Gopperth pen, 13-6; 57 mins: J Gopperth pen, 16-6; 61 mins: J Gopperth pen, 19-6.

Leinster: Z Kirchner; D Kearney, B Macken, N Reid, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, I Boss; J O'Connell, A Dundon, M Moore; L Cullen (capt), M McCarthy; R Ruddock, S O'Brien, J Murphy. Replacements: M Ross for M Moore (25-34 mins and 66 mins), D Ryan for S O'Brien (53 mins, inj), J McGrath for J O'Connell (58 mins), I Madigan for N Reid, J Tracy for A Dundon (both 67 mins), T Denton for L Cullen (71 mins), L McGrath for I Boss (79 mins).

Ulster: R Andrew; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, D Fitzpatrick; L Stevenson, D Tuohy; R Diack (capt), S Doyle, R Wilson. Replacements: J Payne for R Andrew, R Pienaar for P Marshall (both 50 mins), M Allen for L Marshall (57 mins), T Court C Black (58 mins), M McComish for S Doyle (67 mins), R Lutton for D Fitzpatrick (71 mins)

Yellow card - S Doyle (35-45 mins)

Referee: J Lacey (IRFU).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent