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Blues' cruise sees U18s live up to billing

While this was not exactly a title decider, the news that Connacht had beaten Munster earlier that afternoon gave holders Leinster the opportunity to almost guarantee the Schools U18 Inter-provincial Championship at Donnybrook last Wednesday.

This was much more like it from what is rated as good a squad as any that has gone through Leinster in recent times. It is the strength from one to 22 that makes this a standout unit.

Leinster did not play up to expectations in the 34-0 defeat of a mediocre Connacht the previous week. There was a sense that the players owed their management a big performance.



ARC

They were going forward right from the kick-off. Leinster number eight Luke Satchwell almost blew a wide open position when he decided to arc left instead of feeding a simple ball right.

He quickly made up for this poor decision by taking Luke McGrath's feed to crash over three phases later.

The visitors were quickly down to business from the restart, applying pressure at the breakdown where Leinster conceded a penalty, which out-half Stuart Holding pushed to the right. It was a warning to the home side for improved discipline.

A clever chip over the top by scrum-half John Creighton forced a handling error from Leinster full-back Jack Fitzpatrick, creating perfect field position for Ulster. Lock Gavin Thornbury's extended hand illegally caught Creighton at a ruck and Holding struck from close in to reduce the gap to 5-3 in the 20th minute.

From there, Leinster took control, their forwards and backs always looking to create. Captain McGrath almost twisted to the posts, Thornbury was similarly close before centre Rory Kavanagh had the ball shaken loose by a rattling tackle from right wing Marc Best.

A power drive from centre Kavanagh opened the door for full-back Fitzpatrick's weaving run past four defenders all the way to the whitewash where he was deemed to be held up over the line by referee Will O'Connor.

From the following scrum, McGrath broke outside Creighton and drew the last defender to send Michael Mellett in unopposed. Fly-half Steve Crosbie converted from the touchline.



EMERGED

Straight away, McGrath's simplicity on the ball put centre Conor McEllin into a hole down the right, out of which he emerged with a fend on number eight Benjamin Alexander to claim Leinster's third try for a 17-3 interval lead.

On resumption, the outstanding McGrath wrestled the ball off number eight Alexander in an impressive show of strength and openside Dan Leavy wrapped up Holding to repel Ulster's attack.

It was all for nothing, however, as centre Ryan Martin grounded the ball for fly-half Holding to convert in the 40th minute.

A misunderstanding at the restart allowed Crosbie to strike an easy three immediately and centre Kavanagh freewheeled through for another try after solid work closer in. Crosbie added the extras.

From there, the tit-for-tat kicking between Holding and Crosbie enabled Leinster to hold a 17-point advantage until left wing Mark Roche's superb individual try near the end.

Leinster: J Fitzpatrick (Gonzaga); M Mellett (Castleknock), C McEllin (Blackrock), R Kavanagh (St Michael's), M Roche (Blackrock); S Crosbie (St Gerard's), L McGrath (St Michael's, capt); E Byrne (Clongowes Wood), A Murphy (St Michael's), A Boland (Blackrock), J Sexton (St Mary's), G Thornbury (Blackrock), C Kilcoyne (Blackrock), D Leavy (St Michael's), L Satchwell (King's Hospital). Replacements: B Byrne (Clongowes Wood) for Murphy 52 mins; D Shanahan (Belvedere) for McGrath 60 mins; B Howard (CBC Monkstown) for Mellett 63 mins; J O'Neill (Castleknock) for Leavy 68 mins.

Ulster: R Scholes; M Best (both Campbell), R Martin (Methodist), C Farrell (Campbell), N Burns (Foyle & Londonderry); S Holding (BRA), J Creighton (Campbell, capt); S McNabney, J Andrew (both Ballymena Academy), J Harrison, J Andress (both Methodist), J Cooke (Campbell), T Burns (Foyle & Londonderry), J-F Bester (Campbell), B Alexander (RBAI). Replacements: C Taylor (Wallace High) for Harrison, J Donnan (Down High) for Cooke, S Hooks (Royal Armagh) for Alexander all 40 mins; S Best (Coleraine AI) for McNabney, O McCollum (Methodist) for Andrew both 63 mins; R MaGowan (Royal Armagh) for Holding, G Baillie (Campbell) for Scholes both 65 mins. Referee: W O'Connor, IRFU.


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