Leinster too good for Ulster
April 16, 2011
Winger Shane Horgan grabbed a try in each half as Leinster over-powered Irish rivals Ulster
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Leinster reclaimed second place in the Magners League table with a 34-26 bonus point victory over title rivals Ulster at the RDS.
The Heineken Cup semi-finalists stung their provincial rivals with four tries in the opening 36 minutes for the fastest bonus point of the current league campaign. Richardt Strauss, Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Horgan (2) and Heinke van der Merwe were the try scorers for Leinster who remain on course for a home semi-final in the play-offs.
Six days after their heartbreaking European exit, Ulster showed great resolve with tries from Pedrie Wannenburg and Craig Gilroy to almost snatch an unlikely bonus point themselves. Leinster got off to a dream start when Strauss burrowed over after just 69 seconds. Ulster were caught for numbers when Jonathan Sexton dinked a kick towards the left corner, Fitzgerald and Adam D'Arcy battled for the ball and when it went loose, Eoin O'Malley's flicked pass sent Strauss diving over.
Sexton drilled his conversion attempt narrowly to the left, and Ulster gathered themselves for a swift response. They earned a penalty on the 10-metre line which Ian Humphreys knocked over with aplomb. But Leinster exerted their authority again, with Sexton drawing two players to put Isa Nacewa through a gap on the left and he passed for Fitzgerald to ghost over in the corner.
This time Sexton pushed the conversion to the right and wide. It did not matter as Leinster were brimming with confidence and had their third try on the board by the 13th minute. The forwards pummelled away before Fergus McFadden's looping pass gave Horgan enough time and space to barge over in the right corner. Sexton added the extras for a 17-3 advantage.
Ulster's best attacking phase could have led to a try and a yellow card for Leinster flanker Shane Jennings, but they had to settle for a close range kick from Humphreys. Ulster again built through the phases, bringing D'Arcy and Andrew Trimble into play out wide, and Humphreys's third successful penalty punished Stan Wright for a binding offence.
Sexton nailed a penalty in response and referee Pascal Gauzere reached for his yellow card when Ulster number eight Wannenburg tackled Fitzgerald without the ball, with Leinster pressing for another try. That bonus point score came a minute later, the home forwards barging up in a maul which saw prop Van der Merwe touch down by the posts. Sexton's conversion was cancelled out by a monster penalty from Ruan Pienaar in injury-time while Humphreys was treated for a knock.
Ulster's bad night was summed up when they blew an overlap on the right, as the second half resumed. Robbie Diack fumbled while Kevin McLaughlin and Leo Cullen were down receiving medical treatment. Then D'Arcy and Pienaar were both caught out when a hungry Horgan attacked down the right, deftly collected his own chip and breezed over for an instinctive 44th minute try.
Sexton converted for a 34-12 scoreline and Joe Schmidt was soon emptying his bench. Brian McLaughlin did likewise as the short turnaround between games took its toll. One of Ulster's replacements, Willie Faloon, helped Wannenburg wrestle his way over for a try that the visitors' efforts deserved. The conversion was successful from Pienaar.
Their hopes of a first win in Dublin since 1999 may have been dashed, but Ulster ploughed on. After McFadden missed a long range penalty, the hardworking Gilroy fended off Jennings to grab his eighth league try.
It was a well-taken score from the impressive young winger. Pienaar converted and Leinster's forwards sealed off any threat of a comeback with some good work around the fringes. The defeat dents Ulster's semi-final ambitions, but they remain third in the table with just two rounds remaining.
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