Ulster started brightly, but it was the visitors who had the first scoring opportunity when Dan Tuohy was penalised for holding on to the ball too long on the ground. Isa Nacewa's kick fell short, and when Simon Danielli committed a similar infringement two minutes later, Leinster opted to kick for the line. Although Ulster initially snatched back possession after the line-out, the visitors were able to rebuild and feed Sean O'Brien, who cruised through several missed tackles to ground in the seventh minute. Nacewa converted to cement the lead at Ulster 0 Leinster 7.
Leinster continued to dominate, and O'Brien was on hand to touch down again on 15 minutes after an impudent dummy from former Ravenhill favourite Isaac Boss had outwitted several Ulster defenders. Nacewa's conversion kick was scuffed, but sneaked nonetheless between the posts to widen the gap at Ulster 0 Leinster 14.
Ulster put three points on the board on 22 minutes thanks to a penalty from O'Connor, but these were soon cancelled out by Nacewa following some over-exuberance in the ruck from Chris Henry. O'Connor struck again on the half-hour to reduce the deficit to 11 points once more, but, with Ulster in desperate need of at least another score before the break, Leinster slowed down play in their opponents' half and eventually forced a penalty right in front of the Ulster posts. Nacewa kept up his rich vein of kicking to extend his side's lead at Ulster 6 Leinster 20.
Then, with Pedrie Wannenburg penalised for an offside on the stroke of half-time, Nacewa had the chance to try his luck from half-way. The Fijian's kick fell a little short, however, and left Brian McLaughlin's men needing two unanswered converted tries in the second half to draw level.
Half-Time Score Ulster 6 Leinster 20
Leinster began the second half full of confidence, happy to play a patient waiting game in the middle of park as it was their opponents who needed to chase the match. 10 minutes ticked by without incident, and when a scoring opportunity came it was in favour of Leinster, in the form of another Nacewa penalty. The kick, while perhaps not the most graceful, split the posts and widened the gap further still at Ulster 6 Leinster 23.
Then, with a deliberate knock-on by Adam D'Arcy penalised, Leinster won the line-out metres from the Ulster try-line and, despite resolute tackling from Ulster over several minutes, Leinster eventually switched play to the right wing, and Shane Horgan had the simplest of tasks to touch down in the corner. Nacewa converted from a seemingly impossible angle to compound the misery at Ulster 6 Leinster 30.
With 15 minutes remaining, Ulster finally sparked into life with a well-manufactured try registered by Craig Gilroy after some swift passing across the park from left to right. O'Connor converted expertly, and although, at Ulster 13 Leinster 30, the result was no longer in any real doubt, the nicely-worked score finally gave the Ravenhill faithful some long-overdue festive cheer.
Ulster continued to push, and, with several new faces having recently entered the fray, almost broke through again on 76 minutes when Luke Marshall's risky pass was only just prevented from reaching Gilroy again by the outstretched palm of Nacewa. This was to prove to be the last significant action of the match, leaving the Ulstermen disappointed, but with a chance to make amends in only a few days' time with the imminent New Years Day interpro clash at Munster.
Full-Time Score Ulster 13 Leinster 30
(15 - 9) A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, N Spence, I Whitten, S Danielli; N O'Connor, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) P McAllister, N Brady, BJ Botha, J Muller (c), D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, C Henry, R Diack
Replacements (16 - 23) A Kyriacou, D Fitzpatrick, B Young, T Barker, W Faloon, P Marshall, L Marshall, T Seymour
(15 - 9) I Nacewa; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, F McFadden, D Kearney; S Berne, I Boss
(1 - 8) H van der Merwe, J Harris-Wright, M Ross, L Cullen (c), D Toner, R Ruddock, D Ryan, S O'Brien
Replacements (16 - 23) A Dundon, J McGrath, C Newland, E O'Donoghue, B Marshall, P O'Donohoe, I Madigan, A Conway
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|
|Leinster Rugby Score Card|