Saturday 21 April 2018

Quick-fire Leinster fail to find route to bonus territory

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Leinster will be certainties to pick up a winning bonus point against Zebre in the RDS on Friday night, but they left one behind at the same venue yesterday. With three tries in the bank by 42 minutes, Leinster were unable to add to that, having to defend against Ulster for most of the second period.

"We don't really look at it like that - you need to make sure you win the game first," Leo Cullen said of the missed bonus point. "We just didn't get a foothold in the game (second half) really. I'm actually struggling to think of times when we had possession in their 22.

"I'll have to go back and have a look at some of the penalties (11) we conceded. It's certainly not something that we're trying to do: to have a 22-point lead and start giving away penalties. I thought there was a few funny calls out there."

Keeping Leinster away from the bonus point wasn't much consolation to Ulster who this season have won just twice on the road in the Guinness PRO 12. And they added to their injury list here with Rob Herring, Rodney Ah You and Roger Wilson all forced off. With Wiehahn Herbst also out of the picture for a few weeks with a calf strain Ulster's issues at tight-head continue.

"Leinster were very clinical with their opportunities and we were error-ridden, to tell you the truth, in that first half," Les Kiss said. "In the second half when we had a fair bit of possession but they scrambled well. In the context of what we were trying to do in the first half none of the plan came to the fore. It's a funny old game: both teams into the wind controlled the game.

"We didn't kick our goals - little things that were in our control and we didn't control them. If it's 3-0 then maybe it's something different, but it wasn't. Ru just didn't have his kicking boots on him today. And when Leinster made breaks they were clinical and we were a little bit soft in terms of how we closed it off.

"Things just didn't go our way but we didn't help ourselves. Without a doubt it was disappointing in that respect. We backed ourselves and tried to put them under pressure but they scrambled well. We managed to keep them away from the bonus point but it was disappointing."

Ulster are away to Scarlets on Friday night where they will be likely to add to their list of defeats on the road.

Meanwhile, Munster stretched their lead at the top of the table as they overcame Connacht at a wet and windy Sportsground.

The crucial score came after 60 minutes when, with the sides level at six points each, Rhys Marshall scored the only try of the game.

Ian Keatley, unerring from the boot on a field he knows so well, added the conversion and a subsequent dropped goal and, even though they finished with 14 men - Dave Kilcoyne taking the rap for his team's poor scrum - the men in red held on.

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