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Derby battle a damp squib as Ulster stars fail to shine

By Michael Sadlier

We knew it would probably be scrappy stuff, what with so many inexperienced players involved and the wholesale change made at half-time, but this was a particularly poor first outing for Ulster.

And it was anything but a memorable occasion for the trio of players who still harbour remote hopes of making Ireland's World Cup squad.

Darren Cave - the player with slightly more chance of being involved in the final cut - played a half while Craig Gilroy got an 80-minute hit-out and Dan Tuohy did a shift in the second half.

Cave got his hands on the ball early and made two reasonably effective carries with him just being held short of the line. He presented himself for several more strong carries and helped clear out in the lead up to Paul Marshall's try.

As for Gilroy, there was little opportunity for him to do anything apart from a few trademark spins and one half burst in the second half - he then shifted to full-back after Jack Owens was stretchered off and had one notable half-break.

Tuohy soldiered away in the lineout though Ulster's attempts at launching rolling mauls were unsuccessful with Leinster showing them how it was done with two tries from that phase.

And that could well be that in terms of what Cave, Gilroy and Tuohy might have hoped for come the announcement of Joe Schmidt's final squad after next weekend's meeting with Wales, with the coach's mind possibly already made up.

As for Ulster? Well, Neil Doak won't have been best pleased at the error count and the lack of effectiveness in some of the defending and offensive work with the ball in hand. It's early days of course, but new Leinster coach Leo Cullen will be the one with a spring in his step after the way his side hit back and win.

Two of their four tries may have come when Ulster were down to 14-men, but his young squad - assisted greatly by the presence of newly returned Isa Nacewa - was impressive.

Ulster will have to do better next Friday at Edinburgh in their last friendly before the serious stuff begins.

Leinster opened up with a try after just four minutes from winger Adam Byrne which originated from Jamie Hagan's line bust and ended up with the ball shovelled out to the right wing.

Cathal Marsh missed the extras from out on the touchline and Ulster were unable to make a quick reply when Cave was held short and Paul Marshall's pass was thrown into touch.

Leinster should have bagged a second score from Byrne, who had earlier burst through to send the strong-running Ben Te'o on his way, only for Billy Dardis to knock-on.

After that the crowd had to make do with some disjointed play before, just after the half hour, Ulster trundled their way towards the line without too much conviction before Paul Marshall took a tap penalty and squeezed through a couple of tackles to score.

Ian Humphreys converted and Ulster now led 7-5 and this was rapidly increased when four minutes later they won a turnover as Leinster tried to run scrappy ball out of their half and Luke Marshall did well to break two tackles and score from a charge out on the right wing.

Humphreys again added a sound conversion and the half ended with Ulster leading 14-5 before wholesale change was made to both starting sides.

Leinster started strongly with Jack Conan barging over for a 42nd minute try.

Steve Crosbie, on for Marsh, missed the conversion, but Leinster now trailed by four points and with Stephen Mulholland binned shortly afterwards for a high tackle, Ulster had to make do with 14-men for 10 minutes.

Leinster hit back with Dan Leavy crashing over from a rolling maul with Nacewa converting to give them a 17-14 lead.

Five minutes later Leinster had their fourth when, again from a rolling maul, Bryan Byrne touched down with Nacewa converting to give the visitors a 24-14 lead.

And that is how it stayed until the 80th minute - with Crosbie yellow-carded - when Sam Arnold crashed over and Sam Windsor's conversion ended it all. Thankfully.

Belfast Telegraph


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