Thursday 22 February 2018

Watkins on fire as defending champions Ulster are put to the sword

Ulster's chances of retaining the interprovincial crown were blown away by Leinster's emphatic 4-1 win at Grange Road last night.

Gareth Watkins helped himself to a hat-trick as the northerners spent most of the evening chasing shadows. The holders looked well off the pace at the end of the first half after Watkins compiled a couple of goals, on six and 30 minutes.

The opener was thrashed past Gareth Lennox from a neat lay-off by Alan Sothern, while the second was a precision job squeezed by the 'keeper's left foot from a Peter Blakeney cross.

The sequence was broken after the resumption when Blakeney -- back for the weekend from his stay with Roma in Italy -- made the most of an inviting Sothern delivery. But Monkstown man Watkins eventually completed the jubilant hat-trick on 53 minutes with the greatest of ease, tapping home after Sothern was once more the provider.

It was late into stoppage time before Ulster captain Timmy Cockram won and then converted a penalty corner to take the bare look off his side's end of the scoreboard. Cockram's side play Munster today in the second leg of the three-team event, while Leinster recharge their batteries ahead of tomorrow's showdown with Munster.

On the U-21 Mens side of things, after Ulster took the lead Leinster managed to regroup and take control in the second half to ensure they bagged all three points, winning 2-1 through goals from Brian Doherty and Jonathan Kane.

On the women's side, Ulster just stole three points in their opening game against Connacht which was closely contested when Stephanie Quinn converted a penalty corner in the second half.

In last night's other game, Jean McDonnell snatched victory for Leinster as they overcame Munster on a 1-0 scoreline.

Irish Independent

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