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Contentious call helps Leinster pip Ulster in top-of-the-table clash

By PA
Charlie Ngatai of Leinster knocks the ball from the grasp of Aaron Sexton of Ulster to prevent a try during the United Rugby Championship match between Ulster and Leinster at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

A dominant first half helped Leinster triumph 20-13 and go three wins from three in a top-of-the-table Irish derby clash with Ulster at a rain-swept Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

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Tries from Ryan Baird and Dan Sheehan, along with two conversions and two penalties from Ross Byrne, brought Leinster the four points on an evening when Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton made his first appearance of the season off the bench.

After trailing 17-3 at the break, Ulster battled back through a John Andrew try which was supplemented by two penalties and a conversion from John Cooney to claim the losing bonus point.

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Leinster’s Baird scored the game’s first points after seven minutes when the visitors moved the ball at pace down the left flank, with quick hands from Garry Ringrose and Dave Kearney creating the space for Baird to make the corner.

Byrne added a great conversion to make it 7-0 to the visitors.

Two minutes after the quarter-of-an-hour mark, Cooney landed a long-range penalty to narrow Leinster’s lead.

On 20 minutes, Leinster had their second try when Sheehan smashed his way over from a lineout maul which Byrne again converted.

The remainder of the half was dominated by a torrential downpour and the only score came from the boot of Byrne after Leinster opted for the posts with a 37th-minute penalty.

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The opening 40 minutes ended with Leinster leading 17-3

Jacob Stockdale failed to return for the new half after picking up a worrying-looking ankle problem, having endured a similar issue last season.

Leinster’s lead became 20-3 five minutes after the restart, with Byrne’s second penalty.

With Jimmy O’Brien sin-binned in the 61st minute, Ulster put the penalty to the corner and, from the maul, replacement hooker Andrew touched down. Cooney’s conversion cut Leinster’s lead to 10 points.

Ulster worked Aaron Sexton over the line in the 68th minute only for Charlie Ngatai to dislodge the ball in the act of scoring and the try was ruled out.

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Cooney kicked a 71st-minute penalty to make it 20-13 to Leinster but, from there, the game petered out with neither side able to score again.

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J
Jon 5 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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