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Ulster Rugby (7) 13 - 21 (3) Leinster Rugby
Ravenhill, Belfast
27 December 2008, 19:30

What price the draw? The previous meetings of these two teams in Belfast had ended in stalemate, with Leinster marginally the less satisfied on the two occasions.

Leinster welcomed back Gordon D'Arcy to the wing after a long period out of the game following a broken arm. Felipe Contepomi and Isa Nacewa also returned for their first starts following hand and arm injuries respectively.

There was great opening pressure from Leinster, forcing Ulster to concede a five metre scrum but despite several phases of Leinster attacks the Ulster defence held firm and they eventually forced a penalty for holding on.

Leinster were performing much better on the deck than of late and Rocky Elsom was turning over some important ball. This coupled with intelligent kicking saw the first scoring opportunity of the night. Ulster were penalised for not releasing and Felipe Contepomi was offered the kick. The Argentine duly obliged striking a sweet effort over for a three point lead.

Leinster had an opportunity to extend the lead to six just before the quarter hour with a Contepomi penalty. Sean O'Brien had forced an Ulster error with a trademark surging run through the Ulster defence causing the concession of a penalty. However this time Contepomi was inaccurate with his kick.

Leinster got out of jail on eighteen minutes. Following a period of aerial ping pong Girvan Dempsey failed to field a high ball. However instead of playing an advantage the referee called the play back for a scrum with Steven Ferris in hot pursuit of the line.

Ulster opened their account on twenty five minutes when Darren Cave passed the cover of Girvan Dempsey. There was a large whiff of crossing in the build up with Andrew Trimble making a run in front of Paddy Wallace but the referee was unmoved. Humphries added the extras to give Ulster a four point lead.

A great kick again from Isa Nacewa forced the concession of a scrum. Leinster surged forward and Ulster held them up short and successfully slowed the ball. The subsequent five metre scrum was not taken advantage of with Ulster clearing albeit with the advantage of a blatant knock on, again missed by the referee.

Rocky Elsom was clearly in the mood and a barnstorming run was stopped only by the Aussie slipping on the frosty pitch and he even tried his hand with the boot sending a kick deep into Ulster territory that Trimble dealt superbly with.

On the stroke of half time Contepomi was given the chance to close the gap with a 45 metre penalty, but the posts were just out of his range and Contepomi left the effort short. And Leinster went into half time having enjoyed the lions share of possession and territory but behind on the scoreboard.

Elsom capped a great first half with a try early on in the second. Leinster had worked a good position and when Whitaker picked the ball from the back of the ruck he drew two defenders and with a good delayed pass sent Elsom over. Contepomi struck the conversion and it snuck over via the post.

Leinster had lost Stan Wright with a knee injury just after half time and shortly after that Girvan Dempsey limped off replaced by McCormack and Simon Keogh respectively.

Leinster's indiscipline was coming to the surface again and they conceded two penalties in quick succession, Humphries had missed the first but from a similar position on the left wing he struck the second to leave the teams level.

Leinster were beginning to dominate again but it was the final ball that was letting them down and the handling errors were ratcheting up.

On the hour Leinster put together their most consistent and patient sequence of phases with good ground being made and eventually their reward came with a penalty directly in front of the posts. Contepomi obliged and Leinster had the lead again.

Ulster were given an opportunity to level the match after Leinster were adjudged offside following a great Stephen Ferris break. Humphries made no mistake and there was nothing between the sides again.

If it was surprising to see Gordon D'Arcy still on the pitch after seventy minutes, it was a delight to see him break through two tackles superbly and make great ground. Whitaker spun the ball out and the ball arrived in the hands of Simon Keogh who finished in the corner. Contepomi was unable to add the extras with what was a difficult kick from the touchline.

Ulster were letting the mistakes get the better of them and when Nagusa's clearance went into touch on the full Leinster had a platform and Ulster conceded another penalty. Contepomi managed to strike this one and Leinster had a two score lead with four minutes to go.

Ulster weren't finished and a flowing move with good play between Paddy Wallace and Diack just breaking down and a with the last kick of the game a penalty attempt from half way from Humphries to snatch a losing bonus and although the distance was there, he sent it wide of the mark.

A lot of positives for Leinster with the performances of Elsom, Nacewa and D'Arcy in particular impressive. Perhaps the match was heavier weather than it needed to be considering the territory they enjoyed but it will be satisfying to have seen a victory out after two previous draws against Ulster and two previous defeats against their interprovincial rivals.

Match Statistics

Ulster Rugby
Leinster Rugby
Tries Cave

Elsom
Simon Keogh
Conversions Humphries

Contepomi
Penalties Humphries (2)

Contepomi (3)
Sin Bin



Teams Bryn Cunningham
15 Girvan Dempsey
Timoci Nagusa
14 Gordon D'Arcy
Darren Cave
13 Luke Fitzgerald
Paddy Wallace
12 Felipe Contepomi
Andrew Trimble
11 Rob Kearney
Iam Humphreys
10 Isa Nacewa
Isaac Boss
9 Chris Whitaker (C)

Justin Fitzpatrick
1 Cian Healy
Rory Best
2 John Fogarty
Brendon Botha
3 Stan Wright
Ed O'Donaghue
4 Trevor Hogan
Matt McCullogh
5 Devin Toner
Stephen Ferris
6 Rocky Elsom
David Pollock
7 Sean O'Brien
Robbie Diack
8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Nigel Brady
16 Brian Blaney (for Fogarty, 79)
Tom Court (for Fitzpatrick, 49)
17 Ronan McCormack (for Wright, 43)
Thomas Anderson
18 Malcolm O'Kelly (for Hogan, 53)
Kieran Dawson
19 Stephen Keogh (for Elsom, 62)
Paul Marshall
20 Chris Keane (for Whitaker, 79)
Paul Steinmetz
21 Jonathan Sexton
Clinton Schifcofske (for Cunningham, 41)
22 Simon Keogh (for Dempsey, 46)

Not considered
due to injury


Leo Cullen (Collarbone)
CJ van der Linde
Bernard Jackman
Officials Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: P. Fitzgibbon and L. Colgan (IRFU)
TMO: Trevor Collins (IRFU)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2008-12-28

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