ULSTER 21 LEINSTER 24
Ulster started the 2015/16 season with a 21-24 defeat in a lively pre-season encounter against Leinster at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.
Paul Marshall and Luke Marshall scored well-taken tries to give Ulster a 14-5 half-time lead, but three second half tries saw Leinster claim victory.
The visitors opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Luke McGrath’s floated pass to the right gave Adam Byrne a free run to the line. Young flyhalf Cathal Marsh was unable to add the extras from the right touchline.
Ulster hit back on the half hour mark when Paul Marshall tapped a quick penalty and forced his way over from close range. Ian Humphreys kicked the conversion for a 7-5 lead.
Then, with half time approaching, Neil Doak’s men started to gain the upper hand and Luke Marshall took full advantage. The centre, who was an extremely productive ball carrier for the hosts in the first half, showed excellent footwork and acceleration to beat a Leinster defender and charge over down the right. Humphreys was again on target to extend his team’s lead to 14-5 at half time.
There were a raft of changes for both sides during the interval with both coaches deciding to make full use of their 33 man squads. It was the visitors who seemed to benefit most from the fresh legs, scoring two quickfire tries after the break. Substitutes Jack Conan and Daniel Leavy both crossed within seven minutes of the restart, with fellow replacement Isa Nacewa converting one to bring the score to 14-17 in Leinster’s favour.
Another try followed soon after for the men in white, this time for Bryan Byrne, with Nacewa splitting the posts again for a ten point advantage.
The game became a bit disjointed in the final quarter with neither side looking particularly threatening. But that changed in the closing stages as Ulster pressed for a late breakthrough and eventually Sam Arnold crossed for a consolation score. Sam Windsor’s conversion reduced the arrears to 21-24 as the final whistle sounded.
Ulster travel to face Edinburgh next Friday night in the second pre-season game, before the Guinness PRO12 season kicks off at Kingspan Stadium on Friday 4th September. Tickets for that clash versus Ospreys are on sale now via Ticketmaster.