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Far-from-friendly Ulster Leinster clash leaves Olding and Scholes sidelined

By Niall Crozier

There were no league points at stake, and yes, it was only a pre-season friendly. But the boost to Ulster's morale as a result of beating fierce rivals Leinster 10-7 on Saturday evening will have been considerable.

The down side is that they lost outstanding centre prospect Stuart Olding – playing his first game since November – to a first half injury and then saw his replacement Rory Scholes exit injured, too.

A second minute try in the corner by outside centre Jared Payne was superbly converted from touch by fly half Ian Humphreys who then added a penalty just past the half-hour mark.

Leinster replied with a Bryan Byrne touchdown, converted by Ian Madigan, seven minutes into the second half, but that was their lot.

Scrum-half Paul Marshall, whose performance included a number of top-class box kicks and breaks, was happy with a rare win in Dublin.

"When I saw the team Leinster were putting out, it didn't really feel like a friendly," he admitted. "We had a strong team out, they had a strong team out, so while it wasn't a nasty game I think it's fair to say that there's never much love lost when you're playing against another province.

"It was very intense, very physical, on both sides. We both brought a real good intensity to the game so it ended up being a pretty quick and enjoyable to play in."

While happy that Ulster's display was an improvement on the showing against Exeter Chiefs eight days earlier in Belfast, Marshall warned against getting carried away by having pipped Leinster in a friendly.

"Obviously you want to win every game you play in, so we're pleased to have won," Marshall said. "But we're still aware that it was a pre-season friendly.

"It was an improvement from last week, but we still have a bit of work to do before the Guinness PRO12 starts."

Highlighting aspects of the Ulster performance that had particularly pleased him, he said: "During the week we'd worked on a few things and I thought they were improved from the Exeter game.

"Those were a bit more positive than they had been the previous week, though again there's still room for improvement before we play the Scarlets.

"I think it was a positive step for us in terms of our pre-season work. I think it showed we're moving on and making progress ahead of our first competitive match."

The pack's performance was a plus, too, with Marshall noting: "We looked strong up front. Our scrum was very good and our line-out was very good, too.

"The new guys are settling in well and some of the young guys are doing really well, too."

Asked what the mood would when the players reported for training today, the Ulster number nine replied: "It will be good because we know we've improved from last week.

"But the results in pre-season games don't really matter," he stressed. "You can win all your friendlies and then lose your first game."

From Belfast Telegraph