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14-man Ulster's PRO14 hopes ended as Leinster seal Final spot with bonus point win at Kingspan Stadium

 

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Ulster's Robert Baloucoune scores a try despite the efforts of Leinster's Dave Kearney (INPHO/James Crombie)

Ulster's Robert Baloucoune scores a try despite the efforts of Leinster's Dave Kearney (INPHO/James Crombie)

©INPHO/James Crombie

Ulster's Robert Baloucoune scores a try despite the efforts of Leinster's Dave Kearney (INPHO/James Crombie)

Ulster's Guinness PRO14 hopes came to an end as they suffered only their second defeat of the domestic season as Leinster sealed their Final place with a 38-19 win at Kingspan Stadium.

The hosts were forced to play the majority of the game with 14 men when replacement prop Andy Warwick was red carded for leading with the forearm in a carry in what was an ill-disciplined game on both sides.

The two sides shared five yellow cards - three for Leinster, two for Ulster - along with Warwick's red, with Leo Cullen's men claiming all five points having scored five tries in the victory.

They had the job all but done at half-time after Michael Bent, Josh van der Flier and Ed Byrne went over, and further tries after the break from Rhys Ruddock and Dan Sheehan sets up a Final against Munster in three weeks' time.

Ulster had been two tries to the good after early scores from Marcell Coetzee - who later went off injured - and Robert Baloucoune during a sin-bin, but all they managed for the remainder of the game was a further score from Nick Timoney, and they will now turn all their attentions to the start of the Rainbow Cup in April.

Ross Byrne had given Leinster the lead from the tee, but when Devin Toner was shown yellow for a high tackle on Ulster full-back Michael Lowry, the hosts took full advantage with two tries.

Coetzee crashed over for the hosts' opening score of the game from just a yard out before Baloucoune finished off a sensational move in the corner that saw exquisite offloads from Kieran Treadwell and Stuart McCloskey in the build-up, and that was followed by Leinster centre Jimmy O'Brien seeing yellow for a high hit on Ian Madigan.

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But things quickly unravelled from there for Ulster. Despite having a man extra, they saw their lead cut to two when Leinster tighthead Bent burrowed over from close range before running into discipline trouble of their own.

McCloskey was the first to go, sin binned for a cynical infringement right on the line after a brilliant break from O'Brien, and the visitors made the centre pay as Van der Flier went over for their second score to take the lead.

That was quickly followed by Warwick's red card, the loosehead only on for five minutes when he led with the forearm into a carry, earning him an early bath and putting Ulster down to 13.

And Leinster were in the mood to pile on the misery, and they did so moments before half-time when loosehead Byrne dived over for their third try of the night to extend their lead to double-figures.

After the break, Ulster's luck looked to have deserted them when Baloucoune seemingly danced over for his second try of the night with a brilliant first phase move off a lineout, only for the TMO to chalk it off for a marginal obstruction from McCloskey.

As if to rub salt in the wounds, Leinster got their fourth try only moments later. After a sustained period of pressure on the Ulster line, eventually it was Ireland flanker Ruddock who pounced to dot the ball down.

Dan McFarland's men did pull one more score back through Timoney after Ruddock had seen yellow for a no-arms tackle at the line, but replacement lock Izuchukwu was also given his marching orders for repeated infringements with only moments remaining and Sheehan rounded off the scoring at the death to rubberstamp the visitors' Final place.

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Belfast Telegraph


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