Northern Ireland

Leinster grind down improved Ulster

Robbie Henshaw scored his side’s third try to give them breathing space at the RDS
Leinster (7) 21
Tries: Healy, Conan, Henshaw Cons: Ringrose 3
Ulster (7) 17
Try: Baloucoune, Gilroy Con: Burns, Madigan Pen: Burns

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland says his team must raise their level of training if they are to regularly compete with teams like Leinster.

The northern province fell to a narrow Pro14 Rainbow Cup loss against their interpro rivals on Friday, but their performance was vastly improved from a poor display against Munster last week.

“The effort out there was absolutely outstanding,” said McFarland.

“For a lot of that game we kept one of Europe’s best attacking sides quiet.

“In terms of creating things I though we did a better job [than last week], in terms of finishing things we definitely didn’t do a better job.”

Despite playing far from their best, Leinster did enough to wear down their Irish rivals and claim victory in Dublin.

Ulster scored the first and last tries of the contest through Robert Baloucoune and Craig Gilroy, but still slid to a fourth straight loss.

Cian Healy, Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw crossed for the hosts, who continue to be the benchmark for other Pro14 sides.

“We train at a good intensity, but it’s not good enough at the moment against a side like Leinster,” said McFarland.

“It’s an easy thing to say in words, but it’s a difficult thing to do. We’re not talking about being an average team here, we want to be right up there as one of the best teams if not the best team.”

Leinster move back up Rainbow Cup table

Despite the defeat, Ulster are lifted off the bottom of Rainbow Cup North due to their losing bonus-point.

Leinster now move onto nine points in the table, level with Connacht and one behind Munster at the conclusion of three successive inter-provincial rounds.

With an appearance in the competition’s final out of the question, Ulster will be hoping for wins in their final two games of the season to at least end their campaign on a high note.

Ulster started brilliantly at the RDS, competing well at the breakdown and applying the early pressure without initially finding the desired result, as James Ryan twice picked off five-metre line-outs.

It took 20 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, as Ulster disrupted a Leinster scrum to retrieve possession, move the ball right and find Baloucoune to score in the corner.

Ulster
Despite the loss, Ulster scored two tries in a vastly-improved display from last weekend’s defeat by Munster

Leinster were uncharacteristically starved of possession on their home turf, and struggled to find any sort of territory but returned to their best with their first foray into the 22, as Healy pounced from close range.

Both sides continued to enjoy patches of dominance, as an excellent Billy Burns break was only denied by Dave Kearney’s tap-tackle to prevent a certain try.

Burns kicked Ulster back in front after half-time, but Leinster capitalised on 10 minutes of dominance that would prove ultimately decisive, first with soon-to-be British and Irish Lion Conan picking a gap to go over and put his side ahead for the first time.

Eight minutes later Henshaw put the finishing touch on more Leinster pressure to open up a 21-10 lead.

Gilroy’s 79th minute try threatened a dramatic late Ulster comeback, but it did not materialise as Leinster claimed their second straight Rainbow Cup win.

Leinster: J O’Brien; Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Kearney; R Byrne, McGrath (capt); Healy, Cronin, Furlong; Baird, Ryan; Murphy, Van der Flier, Doris.

Replacements: Kelleher, Milne, Bent, Toner, Conan, Foley, O’Loughlin, T O’Brien.

Ulster: Stockdale, Baloucoune, Hume, McCloskey, Gilroy; Burns, Shanahan; O’Sullivan, Herring, Moore; Carter, Henderson (capt); Mattnew Rea, Reidy, Timoney.

Replacements: Roberts, Reid, O’Toole, A O’Connor, Jones, Doak, Madigan, Lyttle.

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