Thursday 26 April 2018

Cullen regime off to flying start

Ulster 21 Leinster 24

Leinster's Ben Te'o is tackled by Robbie Diack and Darren Cave. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Ben Te'o is tackled by Robbie Diack and Darren Cave. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

New Leinster head coach Leo Cullen got his tenure off to a perfect start with a warm-up victory at the Kingspan Stadium.

With trademark breakdown work, solid scrummaging and zippy passing, Cullen will be happy that his mixture of experience and youth did the business at the start of what will be a topsy-turvy season. Ulster with something old, something new, and something blue in their fetching all-azure kit, never really hit the heights.

With the back-row asserting their presence at the breakdown and skipper Dominic Ryan involved in most things, Leinster forged ahead in the fifth minute with the lively Luke McGrath floating out a long pass for right wing Adam Byrne to saunter over in the corner.

Tackling at times was tentative with players getting used to new systems. The sharpness of Paul Marshall helped put Ulster into the lead in the 32nd minute with a quick-fire penalty to surge over with Ian Humphreys converting. Luke Marshall then grabbed a second try to put Ulster 14-5 ahead at the break.

Cullen's half-time team talk had the desired effect and Leinster forged ahead again with three tries within 15 minutes of the restart. First up was Jack Cronin who surged over and that was followed by Daniel Leavy before Brian Byrne was at the end of a lineout drive for his side's fourth try.

The returning Leinster favourite Isa Nacewa banged over two conversions as the scoreline turned around to 24-14 in the visitors' favour. Ulster finally shrugged off their lethargy, but a promising spell was halted near the Leinster line with yet another infringement at the breakdown - an area where the visitors were superior. Ulster did have the final say with the impressive Jacob Stockton going over and Sam Windsor converting.

ULSTER - J Owens; C Gilroy, D Cave, L Marshall, P Nelson; I Humphreys, P Marshall; R Murphy, R Herring (capt), W Herbst; P Browne, F van der Merwe; C Ross, S Reidy, R Diack. Reps: A Warwick, J Andrew, R Lutton, B Ross, A O'Connor, D Tuohy, C Joyce, F Taggart, W Faloon, S Mulholland, P Rowley, D Shanahan, S Windsor, J Stockdale, S McCloskey, S Arnold, L Ludik, M Best.

LEINSTER - B Dardis; D Fanning, N Reid, B Te'o, A Byrne; C Marsh, L McGrath; P Dooley, J Tracy, J Hagen, T Beirne, T Denton, D Ryan, capt, J van der Flier, T Ryan.

Reps: A Dundon, J Loughman, R Burke-Flynn, G Thornbury, P Timmins, N McCarthy, S Crosbie, B Byrne, E Byrne, R Molony, M McCarthy, D Leavy, J Conan, R Byrne, M McGrath, C O'Shea, I Nacewa.

Ref - A Brace (IRFU)

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