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Campbell is proud despite 'A' team falling short

Leinster 'A' 31 Ulster 'A' 10

Halt: David O’Connor and Ethan McIlroy tackle Oisin Dowling
Halt: David O’Connor and Ethan McIlroy tackle Oisin Dowling

By Michael Sadlier

As expected, underdogs Ulster 'A' failed to prevent Leinster 'A' from retaining the Celtic Cup as the southern province scored four tries to the visitors' one to lift the trophy again at Donnybrook yesterday.

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But this was no procession and bore little resemblance to the last time the sides met during last month's league stages of the competition when Leinster triumphed 55-24, even though Ulster still finished second best.

Winger Graham Curtis claimed an early try for Ulster while out-half Bruce Houston converted it and added a penalty, though of particular disappointment will be the fact that the visitors, for all their efforts, never scored again after the 21st minute.

Even with Leinster reduced to 13 men after two rapid yellow cards were shown - in the 62nd and 68th minutes when Ulster were trailing 24-10 but piling on the pressure - Kieran Campbell's charges failed to breach the blue line.

"I'm very proud of the players," Campbell said afterwards.

"Those few minutes before and after half-time cost us and gave them the breathing space they needed.

"I thought when they had two men in the bin that we could score and really go after them but we didn't take our opportunity and that was the crux of the game."

Ulster had started so well with full-back Ethan McIlroy helping to put Curtis over the Leinster line, Houston's conversion giving the underdogs a 7-0 lead.

This was hauled back by a Rob Russell penalty but Houston then struck a 21st-minute penalty to put Ulster 10-3 ahead.

But then Leinster took control and scored two tries, from flanker Oisin Dowling and hooker Dan Sheehan, to lead 17-10 at half-time.

Full-back Russell was put clear by replacement Harry Byrne to touch down in the 50th minute and Byrne's conversion made it 24-10.

But Ulster stuck at it and were putting the squeeze on Leinster's line when they got a break as Dowling was shown yellow.

This was quickly followed by prop Tom Clarkson being sent to the bin, cutting Leinster's on-field personnel to just 13.

But Ulster, for all their endeavour and two-man advantage, couldn't work the ball into the home team's try zone.

Then, with time up, replacement scrum-half Patrick Patterson took a quick penalty and darted over for Leinster's fourth try. Byrne's conversion ended the scoring just prior to his own binning.

Ulster 'A': E McIlroy, A Kernohan, R Adair, H Hyde, G Curtis, B Houston, N Doak; C Reid, Z McCall, A Warwick, D O'Connor, J Regan, J Dunleavy, D McCann (Capt.), Marcus Rea.

Replacements: T Stewart, T O'Hagan, P Cooper, M Dalton, M Agnew, J Stewart, L Pollock, S Kearns.

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