Conan leads Leinster to gritty win over Ulster

Leinster entertained Ulster in a sell out at the RDS Arena in Round 12 of the Guinness Pro12. The home side ran out winners in the end 24-11.

The underwhelming form from both sides dominated the pre game talk. A number of front line players returning from enforced rest as Leinster would have been pleased to return to the comfort of the RDS.

Errors were the order of the day as both sides failed to reach top gear. Ulster were forced into making infringement after infringement at the breakdown, which would prove crucial. A young Leinster back row lead by the immense Jack Conan saw them do enough to see off the Ulster challenge.

The game came alive in the 6th minute when Paddy Jackson threw a delicious flat pass to Dan Tuohy to see the second row race into the Leinster 22. Concerted pressure and quick ruck ball allowed them to get close to crossing the line. A huge hit from Richardt Struss however dislodged the ball from Franco van der Merwe  which allowed Isaac Boss to clear.

Tuohy was involved moments later when he knocked Jack McGrath to the floor. Darren Cave was quick over the ball and forced a penalty. Pienaar got his first crack at goal from close to halfway, the effort striking the cross bar.

Moments later Madigan went high on Olding. Pienaar made no mistake with his second effort as it sailed right down the middle to give the visiting side a 3-0 lead.

Nice build up play from Leinster and Fitzgerald reacting first to a loose ball brought them deep into the Ulster half. What seemed like cynical play by Darren Cave at the resulting ruck gave Madigan his first shot at goal. 3-3

The scrum was a notable positive point for Ulster. Peinaar and Jackson pulling the strings nicely

Ulster was more competent with ball in hand. Causing Leinster problems and looking for the soft shoulders in attack.

Infringement at the breakdown from Leinster gave Pienaar an easy kick to put the Northerners back in the lead.

A major blow to the home side as captain Jamie Heaslip went off with a shoulder injury just before the half hour mark. Van der Flier joined a very inexperienced back row combination.

Breakdown offenses were being made by both sides as the young man Clive Ross went off his feet and allowed Madigan a chance to level matters which he converted well.

Referee Marius Mitrea had warned Rory Best about his side’s ill discipline at the ruck area. Leinster ended the half with their tails up. Getting players around the corner fast. Dan Tuohy showed a hot head when he dove over the ruck to tackle Boss. Mitrea showed good composure to brandish a yellow card as Madigan sent the men in blue three up at the break.

Ulster seemed to have more structure than the home side with Pienaar and Jackson marshaling the troops well, forcing Leinster to make plenty of tackles. Leinster though dug in and forced the errors from Ulster to lead 9-6 at half time.

The second half started at a fierce pace. After a heavy fall from an attempted take from the high ball by Dave Kearney the ball broke to Madigan who skated through. Linking with Jordi Murphy, the flanker raced into the Ulster 22. They couldn’t convert the pressure into a try as Ulster eventually creped offside to give away a penalty.

Madigan shaped to kick for the corner from the penalty, but a cheeky tap and go saw the out half roll in the tackle by Callum Black and dot down for a five pointer. Another two followed from the conversion.

Leinster was notably more efficient with their clear out of the ruck in the early parts of the second half. The man advantage certainty helping but errors were still crippling the game.

A stable Ulster scrum in the Leinster half gave Wilson a platform to charge at Madigan and feed the newly introduced Luke Marshall. Ulster went through the phases well and eventually the pressure told when Wiehahn Herbst crashed over with help from van der Merwe. Pienaar failed to add the extra two as Dan Tuohy returned from the sin bin.

Madigan and Fitzgerald looked the most dangerous for Leinster with ball in had. They pressed and pressed and got within inches of the Ulster line. What seemed like cynical professional fouling by the visiting side was only adjudged to be just a penalty by the referee. Madigan had a look at the touch line but decided the kick at goal was the best option and put Leinster 19-11 ahead.

Ulster from the restart forced a penalty but Pienaar again missed from the tee with a poor kick.

The introduction of Luke McGrath created speedier ball for Leinster as Isaac Boss influence began to wane in the 70th minute. A number of substitutes stifled the pace of the match as players faded after an immensely physical game.

Leinster weren’t willing to stumble over the line as they threw everything at Ulster. The superb Jack Conan took a line out in the Ulster 22 and they packed the maul. Madigan gave a skewed kick cross-field to Gopperth who  grubbered through to touch down. The TMO correctly adjudged that Gopperth slightly knocked on in the process.

The crowd was buoyed and Leinster closed out the win with plenty of running attacking rugby. Forcing errors from Ulster. The pressure eventually told as Jack Conan crossed to cap off a wonderful performance.

Leister will be pleased with the win and a number of good individual performances. Still a lot of work to be done in how the collective plays. Ulster will rue their ill discipline and how they couldn’t back up a good showing in the first half.

MoM: Jack Conan. The young flanker dually stepped in to the void left by Jamie Heaslip early on in the game. A tireless carrier he put the icing on the cake with a try at the death.

The scorers

For Leinster:

Tries: Madigan, Conan

Cons: Madigan (1)

Pens: Madigan (4)

For Ulster

Tries: Herbst

Cons:

Pens: Pienaar (2)

Drop goal:

Yellow card: Tuohy

LEINSTER: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Fergus McFadden, 13. Luke Fitzgerald, 12. Gordon D’Arcy, 11. Dave Kearney; 10. Ian Madigan, 9. Isaac Boss; 1. Jack McGrath, 2. Richardt Strauss, 3. Mike Ross, 4. Devin Toner, 5. Mike McCarthy, 6. Jack Conan, 7. Jordi Murphy, 8. Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements:  16. Sean Cronin, 17. Michael Bent, 18. Tadhg Furlong, 19. Kane Douglas, 20. Josh Van der Flier, 21. Luke McGrath, 22. Jimmy Gopperth, 23. Ben Te’o.

ULSTER: 15. Peter Nelson, 14. Tommy Bowe, 13. Darren Cave, 12. Stuart Olding, 11. Craig Gilroy, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 1. Callum Black, 2. Rory Best (capt), 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 4. Dan Tuohy, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Robbie Diack, 7. Clive Ross, 8. Roger Wilson.

Replacements: 16. Rob Herring, 17. Andrew Warwick, 18. Bronson Ross, 19. Alan O’Connor, 20. Sean Reidy, 21. Paul Marshall, 22.Ian Humphreys, 23. Luke Marshall.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan O’Connell, Mark Connolly (both Ireland)
TMO: Jude Quinn (Ireland)

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