Rugby Union

Leinster spoil the party on Rory Best's 200th cap as poor Ulster fall at Kingspan

Leinster pair Jordi Murphy and Ross Byrne stop Ulster’s Iain Henderson in his tracks during Saturday night’s PRO14 match at Kingspan Stadium. Picture by Hugh Russell 
John Flack

Guinness PRO14: Ulster 10 Leinster 25

LEINSTER proved to the be party poopers for the second time in three years at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night when they deservedly defeated Ulster 25-10 on the occasion of Rory Best’s 200th cap for the province.

It was their first win in Belfast since 2014 when they defeated their hosts to spoil what had been billed as the official opening of the newly refurbished stadium.

Ulster produced another error-strewn performance in the wake of their second half capitulation in the European Champions Cup game against La Rochelle in France six days earlier.

There were far too many handling errors, too many turnovers and, a malfunctioning set-piece with six Ulster lineouts resulting in Leinster stealing possession.

Leinster led 13-10 at half-time, thanks to a superb individual try scored by Jordan Larmour and two Ross Byrne penalties, with Ulster replying through Sean Reidy’s touchdown with the rest of the points coming from the boot of Christian Leali’fano.

But many of the spectators in the capacity crowd were heading for the exits long before Leinster replacement scrum-half Luke McGrath scored his second try of the night to put even a losing bonus point beyond the hosts’ reach, after an abject second-half display.

“Obviously we’re massively disappointed, it’s a big inter-pro with Leinster going well and when they are going well, you have to be on the money to beat them,” said Best.

“Our scrum was good but our lineout just didn’t function to the standards that we set and when you start to get that, it’s very hard to get out of your own half.

“Leinster capitalised unbelievably well on the chances that they got and I think it will go down as one the most disappointing results that we’ve had in a while.

“I think we just put mistake on mistake and we said last week that the 50 minutes or so that we produced against La Rochelle only becomes a positive if we kick on from it.

“We were very frank afterwards  that everyone has to take responsibility, we had a gameplan and a few ideas to break them down but we just couldn’t get there because of either the set-piece or dropped balls.

“It started off the perfect night and it finished off – you’ve got to be honest and I’ve got a lot of milestones over the years – I feel that was one of the more disappointing ones.

“It was a game that I think, before it, we were in a position to go and win it but for whatever reason, we kept letting them off the hook.”

Ulster’s woes were encapsulated in a 10-minute spell in the second half when, trailing by just three points, they were unable to capitalise on having the extra man after Dave Kearney was binned for a deliberate knock-on.

Instead, Rodney Ah You’s dropped ball resulted in another turnover and McGrath got his first try of the night as a consequence to make it 18-10 on the hour mark.

“When Dave was off, we didn’t put extra pressure on them the way we would have liked; it was stop-start, stop-start, we were a bit flat and they welcomed that,” said Ulster director of rugby Less Kiss.

“Look, the boys don’t drop balls or get turned over intentionally, it’s something that we need to work on and we know we have the solutions for it.

“We’re thoroughly disappointed; there’s no hiding from that they gave us a few chances to get back into it with their error-rate as well but we just didn’t take them.”

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