O'Brien leads Leinster to Ravenhill rout
The inspirational Sean O'Brien scored two tries as Leinster pillaged Ravenhill to go fourth in the Magners League and enter the New Year in pristine condition.
Although their Heineken Cup condition looks healthy, Ulster were left reeling from a stunning display by the visiting side that left huge question marks over the performance of their South African imports against a Leinster side shorn of 10 frontline players.
O'Brien and back-row colleagues Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock gave a barnstorming performance in Belfast, as Joe Schmidt's side squeezed Brian McLaughlin's men in every department.
Leinster's only regret was that they didn't pick up a bonus point in their 30-13 win.
O'Brien picked up where he left off in last week's win over Clermont-Auvergne by capitalising on good play from former Ulster man Isaac Boss to cross twice before the break, before Shane Horgan finished the job after the interval. Promising Ulster wing Craig Gilroy pulled a try back late on -- the sole crumb of comfort for the hosts on a grim night.
Ulster could do with looking west for inspiration as Munster were blessed to escape the Sportsground with a 16-12 win against a fired-up Connacht side. Tom Gleeson's 65th-minute try set up Ronan O'Gara to put his side ahead with the conversion, before the fly-half's drop-goal made the gap four.
Eric Elwood's men butchered two gilt-edged scoring chances late on, before failing to make the most of a six minutes of scrums against 14-men opponents after Niall Ronan was yellow carded -- with Munster hauling off the injured Dave Ryan to reintroduce Wian du Preez.
Ultimately, the maligned Munster front-row clung on, Connacht went through the phases and the ball was eventually knocked-on, to the relief of the men in red who welcome the wounded Ulstermen to Thomond Park on New Year's Day.
Elwood must now try and rouse his troops -- many of whom were laid flat on the ground in despair on the final whistle -- for a daunting visit to the RDS also on New Year's Day, where Leinster and O'Brien lie in wait.