Ulster snatch victory at revamped Ravenhill
Ulster 21 Leinster 19: Ulster claimed victory in dramatic fashion in a highly entertaining pre-season friendly against Leinster at Ravenhill.
Replacement scrum-half Ian Porter conclusively proved that perseverance eventually pays off when he squirmed his way over for a try to level proceedings with just 90 seconds of time left to play last night.
Porter's score came after a sustained period of pressure on the Leinster line and his try just to the right of the posts made James McKinney's match-winning conversion a formality.
Ulster's citadel represented a building site, with a gaping skyline where the Main Stand is being constructed, but there was nothing unfinished about some of the moves executed by both sides.
It is a good omen for the season ahead that some of the passing and interchanges by both sides were so dynamic and slick in their first outings of the pre-season.
It was very effective play and holds the promise of even more when the season proper gets underway. Of course it was not error-free but, on the whole, both sides will have been delighted with the night's outing.
Leinster started the game the brighter of the two. Inside the opening five minutes they flexed their muscles up front with a maul that earned them 10 metres before being brought to ground near the touchline just inside the Ulster half.
From there they worked the ball infield into a more favourable position before earning a penalty on the '22' and in front of the sticks.
Jimmy Gopperth could not have wished for a more favourable position from which to open his Leinster account.
Ulster did show flashes of their attacking verve in the opening quarter, not least from centre and captain Jared Payne, as well as right-wing Rory Scholes.
They did enjoy one promising foray into the Leinster half in the opening quarter, but after kicking, chasing and gathering his own grubber, Scholes stepped into touch as he came under pressure from Leinster full-back Darren Hudson.
Leinster were the sharper of the sides during these exchanges and after Gopperth stretched their lead by another three points after 20 minutes they fashioned the opening try of the game when Dominic Ryan crashed over from close range.
Ulster were showing some deft touches of their own and with Nick Williams showcasing some exquisite handling skills to go with his brawn, Ulster began to claw their way back into the contest.
They worked their way slowly into Leinster territory through hard graft from their forwards before Payne made a great charge through the middle to take a crash-ball from his out-half, James McKinney, and barge his way over.
Ulster's tails were up and just before the break they scored their second try when, fittingly, Williams plucked the ball from the tail of the scrum, shoved replacement scrum-half Luke McGrath out of his way and touched down.
McKinney added the extras and they turned over 14-13 in front at the whistle.
Ulster made 12 changes at the break and this, naturally, had an effect on their shape but in a hugely encouraging development, Luke Marshall was among those introduced to the game for his first outing since suffering concussion for the third game in a row in last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final loss to Saracens.
Leinster used the mass substitutions to the Ulster side to their advantage by forcing errors and Gopperth added another six points before the hour mark to push them five points in front.
But Ulster were not to be outdone on their own patch and as the game entered the final moments the enormous pressure they were exerting yielded precious dividend when Porter went over to set McKinney up for the match-winning kick.
Ulster – P Nelson; R Scholes, J Payne, C Farrell, M Allen; J McKinney, M Heaney; K McCall, N Annett, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, N McComb, M McComish, S Doyle, N Williams. Reps used (rotating): C Black, J Murphy, B Ross, A O'Connor, D Tuohy, R Diack, R Wilson, I Porter, C Cochrane, L Marshall, D McIlwaine, R Andrew.
Leinster – D Hudson; D Fanning, B Macken, N Reid, A Boyle; J Gopperth, J Cooney; J O'Connell, A Dundon, M Moore, T Beirne, Q Roux, R Ruddock, D Ryan, L Auva'a. Reps used (rotating): L McGrath, T Furlong, M Bent, J Murphy, C Marsh, D Leavy, T Beirne, J Cooney, D Ryan
Ref – P Fitzgibbon (IRFU).
Belfast Telegraph Digital