Planet Rugby

Leinster claim pole position

26th December 2009 19:54

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Jamie Heaslip Leinster charge

Jamie Heaslip: Weighed in with a crucial try

Leinster maintained their position at the top of the Magners League on Boxing Day, courtesy of a gritty 15-3 win over Ulster at the RDS.

Tries either side of half-time from Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip set Leinster on their way to victoryin a fast-paced festive derby.

The European champions made it ten straight Magners League wins at their Dublin base, with the result moving them back to the top of the league table.

Ulster fielded an under-strength team, with Grand Slam winners Paddy Wallace, Tom Court and Stephen Ferris rested as part of the IRFU Player Management Programme, while Willie Faloon replaced late cry-off David Pollock at openside flanker.

Leinster, meanwhile, had most of their frontliners on show, with CJ van der Linde and Nathan Hines the only absentees from the team that comfortably beat the Scarlets last weekend in the Heineken Cup.

In a frenetic start, Ulster's debutant full-back Jamie Smith took two good early catches to settle his nerves and lock Dan Tuohy carried well for the visitors who were gunning for their first away win over Leinster in ten years.

Buoyed by their back-to-back European demolitions of the Scarlets, Leinster turned down their first kickable penalty in search of an early try but Ulster's aggressive defence kept them out and a straight-on penalty from Shaun Berne opened the scoring on ten minutes.

Berne's opposite number, Niall O'Connor, failed to punish Sean O'Brien for a stray boot at a ruck and Ulster blindside flanker Thomas Anderson received a harsh sin-binning after he was adjudged to have gone over the top of a ruck after a hack through from Isaac Boss.

But Ulster showed great resilience while a man down - they backed themselves in seven-man scrum situations - and the game continued at a high pace with midfield breaks from Stan Wright and Simon Danielli almost setting up tries.

Leinster replacement Mike Ross was pinged for a needless offside and O'Connor converted the resulting kick to briefly level the tie, only for man-of-the-match Kearney to break the try deadlock five minutes before the break.

Gordon D'Arcy made the score with a neat step and sweetly-delivered offload out of contact and Kearney raced onto the pass on the 22 to outstrip the cover and ease over under the posts. Berne's conversion made it 10-3 at half-time.

Ulster's defence slipped up again six minutes into the second half when Kearney battled to gather his own garryowen inside the visitors' half and deftly passed to the supporting Heaslip, who swatted Smith away with a powerful hand-off and galloped over to the left of the posts.

Berne failed to add the conversion and Leinster struggled thereafter to carve out further try-scoring opportunities. It was Ulster who looked more threatening in the closing half-hour and they really should have garnered a losing bonus point.

As Leinster fell off the boil, Ulster were in desperate need of some better execution. The best of their chances came in the dying minutes when Shiels raced into space, and had Danielli held his pass out to the left touchline, a try looked certain.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Kearney, Heaslip
Con: Berne
Pen: Berne

For Ulster:
Pen: O'Connor

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Shaun Berne, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Malcolm O'Kelly, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Stan Wright, 2 John Fogarty, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Bernard Jackman, 17 Mike Ross, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Stephen Keogh, 20 Paul O'Donohoe, 21 Fergus McFadden, 22 Girvan Dempsey.

Ulster: 15 Jamie Smith, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Simon Danelli, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Chris Henry (c), 7 TJ Anderson, 6 David Pollock, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Bryan Young.
Replacements: 16 Andy Kyriacou, 17 Declan Fitzpatrick, 18 Ryan Caldwell, 19 Willie Faloon, 20 Cillian Willis, 21 Ian Humphreys, 22 Jonny Shiells.

Referee: George Clancy

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