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Ulster Rugby (0) 16 - 16 (6) Leinster Rugby
Ravenhill, Belfast
Friday, 26 October 2007, 19:30

For the second successive season it was honours even at Ravenhill between Leinster and Ulster.  Last season Leinster took some grim satisfaction from the 6-all draw played in horrendous conditions.  However the memory of this game will leave nothing but frustration as it was a game they should have won.

The Leinster pack settled quicker and tore into an Ulster team that was clearly low on confidence.  Ollie Le Roux was making his debut and he quickly made a strong impression, giving Bryan Young a tough time in the scrums and making plenty of ground in the loose.

Despite an early miss, Jonny Sexton gave Leinster the lead with a penalty in front of the posts after seventeen minutes.  The Leinster pack was so dominant, it was quite surreal as the first half was played almost entirely in the Ulster half.  However the dominance was not translated into points as they only had another Jonny Sexton penalty to show for their endeavours by half-time.

Leinster emerged after the half-time break looking to capitalise on their dominance.  Le Roux linked up with Rob Kearney who was held up close to the line.  Gordon D'Arcy backed himself from the ruck and managed to ground the ball in the corner for a try that was converted superbly by Sexton.

Yet there was still a sense that a thirteen point lead wasn't enough, especially when Ulster talisman David Humphreys was brought on for Paddy Wallace.  The thirty six year old may be in his final days, but he immediately brought authority to the team.  Indeed it was like someone flicked a switch in the Ulster team as they finally came alive.

The Ulster pack finally started to make inroads into the Leinster eight and it wasn't long before it was reflected on the score-board.  After 55 minutes, Humphreys made a half break in midfield and linked up with the excellent Bryn Cunningham who in turn released Andrew Trimble who romped home to score from 20 metres out.

Humphreys converted the try and for the first time, Leinster looked rattled.  While they had previously played smart rugby in the Ulster half, they now started eschewing opportunities to kick for territory.  Instead Chris Whitaker seemed content for the pack to go through an endless series of rucks in their own half.  Inevitably the ball was turned over and Humphreys took advantage with a penalty and a drop goal to tie the score at thirteen all.

Leinster hit back with seven minutes to go when Sexton kicked his third penalty to make it 16-13.  They just needed to hold out for injury time.  They looked to have done enough when they got the ball into the Ulster half, but once again they gave away a stupid penalty.

Then Leinster infringed in midfield.  It seemed a harsh penalty as D'Arcy looked to have stripped the ball from Trimble in the tackle.  Humphreys task was made easier as the ref penalised Malcolm O'Kelly for not retreating 10 yards.  It was still a tough kick though but Humpheys coolly knocked it over to tie the game at sixteen all.

The game was somewhat tarnished at the final whistle as Justin Harrison and Shane Horgan exchanged punches.  Thankfully most of the other players on both sides saw sense and the pair were quickly separated.

There was positives for Leinster in the performances of Bernard Jackman, Jamie Heaslip and Le Roux in the pack.  The tactical kicking of Sexton was another big plus, as was the improved showing in the line-out.  However ultimately the feeling will be one of annoyance as this game will be filed under "ones that got away".

Match Statistics
  Ulster Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Tries Trimble   D'Arcy
Conversions Humphries   Sexton
Penalties Humphries (2)   Sexton (3)
Drop-goals Humphries    
Teams Bryn Cunningham 15 Girvan Dempsey
Tommy Bowe 14 Shane Horgan
Andrew Trimble 13 Brian O'Driscoll (C)
Rob Dewey 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Mark McCrea 11 Rob Kearney
Paddy Wallace 10 Jonathan Sexton
Isaac Boss 9 Chris Whitaker
Justin Fitzpatrick 1 Ollie le Roux
Rory Best (C) 2 Bernard Jackman
Bryan Young 3 Stephen Knoop
Carlo Del Fava 4 Leo Cullen
Ryan Caldwell 5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Neil Best 6 Stephen Keogh
Kieron Dawson 7 Shane Jennings
Stephen Ferris 8 Jamie Heaslip
Replacements Nigel Brady 16 Brian Blaney (for Jackman, 63)
Declan Fitzpatrick (for Young, 69)
17 Stanley Wright (for Knoop, 15)
Justin Harrison (for Del Fava, 48)
18 Devin Toner (for Keogh, 78)
Roger Wilson (for Dawson, 55)
19 Keith Gleeson (for Le Roux, 73)
Paul Marshall 20 Cillian Willis
David Humphreys (for Wallace, 47)
21 Christian Warner
Mark Bartholomeusz (for Cunningham, 80)
22 Luke Fitzgerald
Not Considered
due to Injury
    Ronnie McCormack
Trevor Hogan

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
Sub Referee: L Colgan (IRFU)
Touch Judge: T Horkan (IRFU)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2007-10-30