| 4.6°C Dublin

Leinster have plenty in reserve as Leo Cullen's men secure bonus point victory over Ulster

Leinster 40 Ulster 7

Close

Conor O’Brien of Leinster celebrates after scoring his side's second try

Conor O’Brien of Leinster celebrates after scoring his side's second try

SPORTSFILE

Conor O’Brien of Leinster celebrates after scoring his side's second try

With the team selections offering no evidence – were it ever needed – to confirm Leinster remain miles superior to Ulster, the fact that their reserves eased to victory at the RDS will have to do for now.

However, they did have one of only two regular starters, hooker Sean Cronin, to thank for providing  two of the bonus-point tries they had secured by the half-time whistle, when they led 26-7.

However, there were other fine individual cameos to provide some fringe benefits for Leo Cullen as they revert to their heavy mob for European ventures in the next fortnight.

Chief among them, Conor O'Brien, the burly midfielder who scored a sensational solo try in that opening half, which, combined with Cronin's characteristic barnstorming double, and a close range push from Andrew Porter, had the contest wrapped up by the half-way mark.

A second-half try from Jamison Gibson-Park and a Penalty try completed the scoring; Adam McBurney the solitary scorer for Ulster.

Max Deegan and Scott Penny also shone in the back-row while Rob Kearney and Jack McGrath also made sweat-free returns from injury, too, to cap a fine response to last week's thunderous Thomond defeat as Leinster eased a barely credible 19 points clear in Conference B.

A home semi-final is already assured.

Cronin crashed over after just six minutes, a fine tribute to some wonderful ball retention numbering 26 phases and a reward for Cronin's initial role on the blindside with a deft pass to keep the marauding move alive in its initial throes.

Ulster's stand-offish approach didn't help them and they had opportunities to turn over the ball had they been minded but, although Deegan and Ross Molony threatened to spill the pill, they somehow kept it alive.

Cronin's close-in finish to the left of the sticks was more than they deserved, the effort converted by Ciaran Frawley, restoring his poise after missing an earlier kick to touch.

Leinster were allowed to do as they please, it seemed, winning gain-lines with consummate ease, often with the carrier using only one arm to smuggle the pill under his oxter.

Frawley and the beefy Conor O'Brien effected a trademark wrap-around beloved of their more gilded colleagues, messrs Sexton and Ringrose, as Leinster sought to double their lead. It didn't take long.

O'Brien, a considerable presence in the midfield, burst a huge hole in the defence after a neat slip from Frawley and Barry Daly did really well to keep the ball alive on his opposite wing.

When the ball was quickly recycled the other way, Cronin ran as if a raging bull to blast past David Shanahan and Michael Lowry to pounce. Frawley again converted.

Ulster were content to swing from the hip and from their first real incursion to the Leinster 22, they came away with a seven-pointer of their own in the 18th minute, Adam McBurney crashing over from a perfectly constructed but poorly defended five-metre maul, the try converted by Johnny McPhillips.

They seemed content to sit back and admire the work; literally so, as Leinster grabbed their third try directly from Ross Moloney's restart win from Frawley's fine kick-off.

One swift recycle left found O'Brien, the erstwhile Westmeath under-age hurler who weaved his way hither and thither, leaving a clatter of white shirted defensive dummies on their backsides to score a stunning solo effort; Frawley mis-cued his bonus kick.

But Leinster were already eyeing their bonus try and Frawley's poorly executed pass hinted at an anxiety to get it.

That allowed Ulster, already gasping for air, blessed relief but McPhillips dragged a 40-metre penalty to the left from straight in front after Jamison Gibson-Park's high tackle on James Hume.

Leinster conceded a hat-trick of penalties as their play became increasingly ragged as the half-time oranges beckoned but Ulster had neither the wit nor control to take advantage, over-throwing a lineout when they were primed to stage a repeat of their earlier maul success.

Leinster were no better at the other end; at one stage, Gibson-Park attempting a preposterous double-skip pass that deserved a 14-point swing; luckily for him, it didn't. But Leo Cullen will have been furious at the dip in standards from his admittedly patchwork side in a sloppy second-quarter.

Conscious of this, the side were probably keen to make amends before any tongue-lashing and they did so before the bell tolled for half-time; from a five-metre lineout, Leinster patiently punched and probed the Ulster line before Andrew Porter plunged over to make the five points safe.

Frawley again converted and that was the ball game.

The contest – such as it was – dissipated with replacements and the absence of any meaningful mystery about the result and the frantic nature of the efforts reflected the absence of any real intensity.

Scott Penny's pacey explosion through the middle might have earned a fifth try but he knocked on in the tackle in attempting to recycle ten metres short.

The fifth come did after the hour mark; Leinster staging a mini-competition from a five-metre scrum to see if they could eke out the Penalty Try or one for Gibson-Park from the base; the Kiwi won the argument and Frawley nailed another double.

At 33-7, it was all about accountancy now – Leinster adding a Penalty Try in the final play - and the punters who lumped on -23 were smiling as much as the majority of the 18,099 spectators.

Leinster - R Kearney capt (J O'Brien 62); A Byrne, C O'Brien, N Reid, B Daly; C Frawley, J Gibson-Park (H O'Sullivan 62); J McGrath (E Byrne 51), S Cronin (J Tracy 51), A Porter (A Porter 51), R Molony (O Dowling 69), M Kearney, J Murphy (C Doris 22), S Penny, M Deegan.

Ulster - M Lowry (P Nelson HIA 18); R Lyttle, D Cave, J Hume, A Kernohan (B Houston 49); J McPhillips, D Shanahan (J Stewart 72); K McCall (A Warwick 49), A McBurney (J Andrew 33-HT; 51), W Herbst (T O'Toole HT), M Dalton, A O’Connor CAPT (C Montgomery 68), G Jones, S Reidy (C Ross 58), N Timoney.

Online Editors