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Leinster 10-20 Ulster: Visitors seal rare Dublin win as late James Hume intercept try downs hosts at the RDS


Ulster flanker Greg Jones celebrates scoring his try (INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

Ulster flanker Greg Jones celebrates scoring his try (INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Ulster flanker Greg Jones celebrates scoring his try (INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

Ending with a shrug of James Hume's shoulders, it was the only indecisive act from Ulster all night.

The seemingly nonplussed celebration from Ulster's young centre as he sealed this win over Leinster belied a performance where his side had stuck rigidly to task and script from minute one until the moment his late intercept that sealed the deal.

On a ground where they hadn't won since March of 2013, a time so long ago that only two of the squad from that day remain at Kingspan Stadium, and coming off the back of one of their worst performances in years, the contrast to what had gone before couldn't have been starker.

Against the side who so often down the years have left their season in tatters, this was a performance to breathe new life into a campaign ahead of a make or break run. While this was far from Leinster's full strength side - it was, however, one strong enough to come in as 15-point favourites - and no silverware is won six games into the year, this was still the discarding of one sizable piece of baggage and a victory all the more impressive for the determination in both attack and defence required to secure it.

Hume's late heroics at the end of another stellar performance earned him man of the match honours but Ulster's triumph here was authored by those spread wide across the 23.

Whether it was Nick Timoney backing up his second Irish cap with a relentless showing, front-rowers like Rob Herring and Marty Moore still powering into tackles as the clock inched ever closer to 80 minutes, or early replacement Marcus Rea proving such a consistent nusicience, Dan McFarland's match-winners were everywhere you looked.

Throughout, their chief concern was only that their performance didn't yield enough points to pull away until the very death.

Ulster had spent the first eight minutes camped in Leinster territory, forcing the hosts into a pair of penalty concessions that allowed them to try and get their maul rolling. Leinster's goal-line defence was ferocious though and Ross Moloney got over the ball after a Sam Carter penalty to relieve the pressure.

To Ulster's credit they made the exit difficult for Leinster with Greg Jones enough of a force at the breakdown to bring another penalty 10 metres into the opposition half.

While the visitors went for the posts this time, John Cooney's first shot at goal since his return from injury stayed to the left of the posts.

When the scrum-half next put boot to ball his box-kick caught Jimmy O'Brien off guard with the Leinster full-back fumbling the ball into touch off just outside his '22'.

From a line-out claimed by Jones there was a real zip to Ulster's attack with sharp running lines run by McCloskey and James Hume isolating Jordan Larmour on the outside. While Hume was hauled down just short by the despairing Leinster wing, the quick recycle allowed for Jones to dart through the gap to score.

Cooney's conversion gave Ulster the 7-0 lead their start warranted and after Nick Timoney got in on the poach they were right back on the attack.

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Indeed they looked set for a second try only Robbie Henshaw to deny them when both Jones and Leavy were receiving treatment.

Neither would return and as the second quarter began, Leinster launched their first attack of note. A scrappy line-out saw Rob Herring alertly shoot out of the line to force a knock-on.

Devin Toner's early tackle was negated when the same man stole the subsequent line-out and the lively Ciaran Frawley skipped through the tackle of Sam Carter to break upfield. Gilroy held his ground and collided with the recent Irish squad call-up bringing the RDS crowd into the contest but referee Frank Murphy and his team of assistants let play go on.

A Billy Burns break similarly came to nothing when the offload didn't go to hand and neither side could match the consistent pressure of the visitor's opening salvo as half-time neared.

Leinster were certainly on the front foot, though, and perhaps unsurprisingly it was those who had spent the long break from club action in Ireland camp who were making the biggest impacts with Timoney especially showing up consistently. Ulster, though, deserved plenty of credit for their role in disrupting the rhythm of the champions with their linespeed in defence a huge step up.

In the final minute of the half, Cooney would have the chance to push Ulster into an advantage of greater than a converted score but again his penalty was off target.

With Ulster playing so close to the edge in defence, the occasional gap was inevitable and Ross Moloney galloped through one early in the second-half but Mike Lowry was stout as the last line of defence.

With every marginal decision that went Ulster's way the temperature of the RDS crowd raised a degree or two but it was the travelling contingent cheering when Cooney nudged Ulster into a ten-point lead when Scott Penny was caught on the wrong side.

Leinster struck back almost immediately, though, Henshaw doing brilliantly to pick a poor pass up off his bootlaces and finish at the second attempt despite the close attention of Eric O'Sullivan.

Ulster were rocking on their heels somewhat by Marcus Rea's second big turnover of the game provided a serious jolt in the arm and sent his side back on their way.

A Rob Lyttle chip and chase forced Adam Byrne to step into touch. From five metres out, though, Ulster made a mess of the line-out. Moments later, the fit-again Will Connors got over the ball and the chance was gone.

A quarter of an hour from the end and Leinster pulled level when Rea was pinged in front of his own posts. Parity would not last long though with Nathan Doak confidently striking a sideline penalty ten minutes after he replaced Cooney from the bench.

The pendulum swung the opposite way again when Moloney authoritatively rose to swat an Ulster line-out back on the Leinster side but yet another lung-busting set in defence from Ulster finally produced a Harry Byrne knock-on.

The minutes and seconds will have felt as if they passed slower and slower for Ulster but, as Leinster's discipline eroded, they were playing the end-game just where they wanted.

Scott Penny at the breakdown gave Leinster one last chance but again Ulster's defence slammed the door shut.

As Hume plucked O'Brien's pass from the air and cantered home, for the first time in more than eight years, it was to stay that way.

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