2022 Leinster Rugby vs Ulster Rugby

Leinster Maintains Unbeaten Run With Comeback Win Over Ulster

Leinster Maintains Unbeaten Run With Comeback Win Over Ulster

It's not often we get to see Leinster with its back against the wall. So often, the premium Irish province dominates and manipulates tries to its own tune.

Dec 5, 2022 by RugbyPass
Leinster Maintains Unbeaten Run With Comeback Win Over Ulster

It's not often we get to see Leinster with its back against the wall. So often, the premium Irish province dominates and manipulates tries to its own tune, using the brawn and skill of an endless list of internationals to run oppositions ragged.

However, on Saturday, a more unfamiliar story materialized, when Leo Cullen's men were reduced to 14 against Ulster with just over a quarter of the game gone.

Cian Healy found himself on the wrong side of the referee's whistle after clashing heads with opposition hooker Tom Stewart in a tackle.

A large gash developed on the Leinster stalwart's forehead, clearly marking the illegality of the hit. It came as no surprise, when soon after, Healy was given his walking orders and shown red.

At first it appeared his absence would have grave consequences. 

Ulster spared no time making the most of its man advantage. Less than a minute on, Rob Herring peeled away from a rolling maul and reached out to score the opening try.

The visitors, relishing the momentum they had engineered through their forward pack, crossed over for another before the half-hour mark, with Kieran Treadwell adding his name to the score sheet by powering through a narrow gap in the defense to silence the RDS Arena.

Things got even better for the men in white, when Ethan McIlroy finished off an expertly executed attacking move, which saw Ulster escape from just outside its 22 and score within one phase of play.

All of a sudden, Leinster's unbeaten start to the season was tinkering on the edge. 

Staring down a 22-3 deficit, Leinster had 55 minutes to overturn its fortune but needed to do so a man down.

This was a real challenge, and one Leinster took in stride. 

Leinster isn't a team to shy away from a fight and demonstrated its URC title credentials with a superbly executed second-half performance, resurging to win 38-29 and maintain a stronghold at the top of the URC.

It's easy to gaze upon the league table and take Leinster's form for granted. 

The squad was perched at the top for large swathes of last season but failed to translate the regular-season form into postseason silverware.

Within the space of a few weeks, they crashed out of the URC playoffs, at the hands of the Vodacom Bulls, and lost to La Rochelle in the Champions Cup final.

Such extreme levels of heartbreak cannot be underestimated, but this Leinster side is not defined by mental strains or an inability to overcome. The team's form at present gives credence to the tenacity inhibited within the squad and the depths to which it will go to win.

All that was on show at the RDS Arena, as the men in blue regained their composure and, like a bludgeoned predator, came back with a bite.

The turnaround began when Ronan Kelleher crashed over from close range just before the break, giving the hosts some much-needed energy heading into the second period.

Indeed, from there, they propelled upwards, thanks in large part to the nimble feet of Garry Ringrose, who danced his way through cavorting defenders to score Leinster's second around the 60-minute mark.

Ringrose is one of the best centers around. At times, it seems his intelligence and game awareness get lost amongst the hyperbolic praise for others around the globe. His performance over the weekend was a prime example of his sheer quality. 

It was only three minutes after his first score that he found himself dummying and stepping to navigate his way through the Ulster backline and put Leinster ahead.

Two further scores from Andrew Porter and James Lowe wrapped up the bonus-point win and forced Ulster down to fourth in the table.

Ulster coach Dan McFarland felt disappointed, particularly at the lax discipline his side exhibited in crucial periods. 

During a stretch in the final quarter of the game, the visitors were reduced to 13 men, as James Hume and Nick Timoney were shown yellow cards, and it was then that Leinster completed the comeback.

"There's a lot of momentum with Leinster going in at halftime with the try, and the mistakes allowed them field position and to really get back into the game," McFarland said. "Obviously, the two yellow cards were costly. From my perspective, the lads gave a lot, and they worked hard, but we obviously need to be better in that period.

"To get three tries ahead when they went down to 14, we put some nice play in, forced a transition try and a couple of good tries in their 22 with our power play - we'll take a lot from that."

Ulster will regroup ahead of an upcoming Champions Cup opener against the Sale Sharks, while Leinster ready itself for a fierce clash with Racing 92.

The Dubliners travel to Paris unbeaten this term, with a points differential of 161 - the only URC team to grade above 100 in this category.  

Admittedly, Leinster has yet to face last season's finalists - the Bulls and Stormers - who sit right behind in the table. 

Leinster now has overcome Ulster twice in the space of two months, which is no mean feat. 

Written by Stefan Frost