Remarkably, the inexperienced Ulster came so very close to scoring first, full-back Peter Nelson being halted only metres from the try-line with ball in hand after excellent approach play from the visitors on four minutes. Then, four minutes later, out-half James McKinney was only centimetres away with a well-taken penalty kicked into a ferociously swirling wind.
With Leinster then seizing the initiative after these two early scares, only heroic interventions from two youthful Ulster backs prevented the registering of a home try, in the 13th and 16th minutes. First Michael Allen somehow held up Cian Healy behind the line, then Nelson performed the same feat on Leo Auva'a moments later. However, when the Dubliners came calling a third time after a second consecutive Leinster 10-metre scrum, a long pass found Fionn Carr in acres of space on the right wing, and the former Connacht man dived over unopposed. Fergus McFadden added the extras to set the score at Leinster 7 Ulster 0 at the end of the first quarter.
Despite the deficit, Ulster were clearly far from overwhelmed and continued to compete manfully, but on 25 minutes their defence was torn asunder by a superb run from Luke Fitzgerald. The Ireland international's surge drew several Ulster players out of the defensive line, and once the ball had been sprayed crossfield, Ian Madigan found Sean Cronin on the left flank, and the hooker landed the try by the corner flag. McFadden converted once more, doubling the gap at Leinster 14 Ulster 0.
Ulster got on the scoreboard just before the thirty-minute mark courtesy of a well-struck McKinney penalty, and, seemingly buoyed by the score, their excellently-orchestrated approach play earned a second penalty five minutes later, also dispatched by the young out-half. Auva'a was on hand, however, on the stroke of half-time to capitalise on some Ulster hesitation in the scrum and grab the third try of the encounter, converted again by McFadden.
Half-Time Score Leinster 21 Ulster 6
Ulster's rookie line-up gave an even better account of itself in the second half than it had in the first. Indeed, the arrears were reduced to a mere eight points on 48 minutes when winger Chris Cochrane danced his way past three or four desperate tackling attempts, after a scoring opportunity had been carved out thanks to some excellent phase play and impressive sleight of hand from McKinney. The fly-half's conversion made the score Leinster 21 Ulster 13.
Then, a superb break from Nelson, Chris Farrell and Conor Gaston on 53 had Leinster hearts in mouths, but the final pass just eluded Gaston on the wing and the ball veered out of play. Nevertheless, Ulster continued to apply severe pressure to the Leinster defence until, just before the hour mark, a rare second-half foray into opposition territory for the hosts won them a penalty inside the visitors' 22. Indicative of the Leinster side's wariness after Ulster's much-improved second-period performance, home captain Shane Jennings instructed McFadden to kick for goal rather than for touch but, inexplicably, the centre's low kick spiralled against the post and out of play.
Unfortunately, the floodgates eventually opened and the Leinster bonus point was confirmed on 67 minutes thanks to a penalty try, awarded after Ulster were adjudged to have intentionally collapsed the scrum to prevent a try-scoring opportunity. McFadden kept up his 100% conversion-kicking record, and the score stood at Leinster 28 Ulster 13.
With the match now over as a contest, Madigan then took full advantage of tired Ulster defending in the closing 10 minutes to sneak through for try number five, and Jamie Hagan added a sixth with two minutes to go. Both scores were converted by McFadden, confirming his side's 29-point victory. Ulster now return to Ravenhill to welcome interpro rivals Munster on Friday, in a match which should see many of the squad's more established names return to the starting line-up.
Full-Time Score Leinster 42 Ulster 13
(15 - 9) L Fitzgerald; D Kearney, F McFadden, G D'Arcy, F Carr; I Madigan, E Reddan
(1 - 8) C Healey, S Cronin, M Ross; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings (c), L Auva'a
Replacements (16 -23) R Strauss, J McGrath, J Hagan, S Sykes, R Ruddock, I Boss, E O'Malley, A Conway
(15 - 9) P Nelson; C Cochrane, M Allen, C Farrell, C Gaston, J McKinney, P Marshall
(1 - 8) C Black, N Brady (c), A Macklin; T Barker, L Stevenson; N McComb, A Birch, R Diack
Replacements (16 - 23) N Annett, J Cronin, T Court, J Simpson, C Joyce, I Porter, S Olding, R Andrew
|Leinster Rugby Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|