Leinster Juniors show guts and class to claim Interpro series title
The Leinster Rugby Junior team retained their Interprovincial Series title with a 28-20 win over Ulster last Saturday in Dundalk.
Leinster and Ulster were in the hunt for the title, with Ulster sitting on top of the Interprovincial table, one point ahead of their hosts.
Connacht and Munster were waiting in the wings if either side slipped up as it was possible that any one of the four provinces could win the title going in to the last round of games.
Leinster were put under early pressure by the visitors. The home side worked hard to repulse an early onslaught by Ulster which included conceding a penalty to the men in white within the first minute.
Ulster kept the early pressure up and their hard work resulted in a kickable penalty after five minutes. The kick at goal was good and Ulster had the early lead, 0-3.
Leinster struck back quickly however, with a try after eight minutes. Mikey Russell made a scything break through from the Ulster 10-metre line up the left-hand side.
Drawing the despairing defenders with him, he placed a perfectly weighted pass to the awaiting hands of Leinster full-back Matt Stapleton.
The try was converted by Jake McDonald.
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Ulster continued to test the Leinster defence and their endeavours were rewarded with their first try of the afternoon in the 23rd minute.
The try, to the left of the posts, was scored by Matthew Coulter after a burst by Michael Kirk but it was not converted, leaving Ulster with a one-point lead, 8-7.
Leinster immediately fought back. A great burst up the middle was brought to a halt just inside the Ulster 22.
Leinster were penalised for not rolling away but they soon recovered possession of the ball through their imperious lineout and attacked again.
This sortie by Leinster came up just short of the Ulster try line and Ulster were again able to relieve the pressure.
Leinster won the resultant lineout and set up a maul that drove forward 10 metres before the ball was released and moved out to the left.
The Leinster hands were quick and accurate, resulting in a try for replacement Hugh Gowing in the 32nd minute. This try was converted again by McDonald, giving the home side a 14-8 advantage.
The game was being played at an incredible tempo and Ulster were quick to strike back with a try through Johnny Hyndam. Again this was unconverted and Leinster remained in front.
Leinster regained possession after the restart and then went through a series of drives.
Scrum-half Alejandro Laforga took an opportunity and burrowed his way through a forest of defending Ulstermen to score Leinster's third try of the afternoon. The try was converted, giving Leinster a lead of 21-13 at half-time.
Ulster came out in the second half determined to find a way back in to the match.
They were finally rewarded for their pressure in the third quarter, when Joel McBride's try, converted by Lee Steenson, left just a point in it.
The Leinster men did not panic however, and it was from this point that they reclaimed the initiative.
Some clever play, including a deft kick over the defending Ulster midfield, gained Leinster a toehold inside the Ulster 22.
The ball was passed out to the right by the Leinster backline and the move saw Leinster's Padraig Mahon score the all-important fourth try, which was also converted by McDonald.
Leinster did not relinquish their lead and were able to see out the match to win with a bonus point, 28-20.
Leinster Rugby Juniors - Matt Stapleton (Clondalkin), Corey Carty (Wexford), Mikey Russell (Clondalkin) (vice-captain), Adam Brodigan (Boyne), Padraig Mahon (Kilkenny), Jake McDonald (Kilkenny), Alejandro Laforga (DLSP), Jonathan Gray (Dundalk), Robin Foot (Portlaoise), Robert Farrell (Dundalk), Ronan Costelloe (DLSP), Wes Carter (Kilkenny), Conor Hurley (Ashbourne), Kieran O'Gorman (Longford) (captain), Tom Satchwell (North Kildare). Reps: Ian O'Rahelly (Newbridge), Cathal Bannon (Monkstown), Daniel Lambe (Cill Dara), Luke Roche (Wexford), JohnJoe McIlwrath (Cill Dara), Gavin Kennedy (Ashbourne), Hugh Gowing (Monkstown), Robbie Waters (North Kildare).