Guinness PRO14 title favourites Leinster completed a 15-match regular-season winning streak with a 28-10 victory over Ulster at the Aviva Stadium. Captaining Leinster for the first time in a competitive game, Ed Byrne led by example with an early try and Ross Byrne kicked the other points for a 13-0 half-time lead.
The two Irish provinces were already assured of their semi-final places next week, and Ulster, who travel to Edinburgh in the last four, battled back with a Rob Herring maul try to make it 16-7.
John Cooney’s 67th-minute penalty reduced the deficit further but Leinster, despite a fully-changed squad from last weekend’s win over Munster, produced a clinical two-try finish as replacements Scott Penny and Harry Byrne both crossed late on.
The ‘away’ team were quickest out of the blocks, with man-of-the-match Ciaran Frawley managing to scramble onto his own grubber kick before prop Byrne, with solid support from Max Deegan and Will Connors, burrowed over for a second-minute converted score.
Costly penalties and turnovers hampered Ulster’s progress, although a strong Jacob Stockdale run sparked some quicker ball. Yet entering the second quarter, Leinster were already 13 points up after fly-half Ross Byrne had landed two well-struck penalties.
Match report ?? https://t.co/q0qkUjh4uw
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) August 29, 2020
A fine steal by Ross Molony foiled a five-metre lineout for Ulster, whose talismanic scrum-half Cooney also endured a couple of frustrating errors. Leinster were leaving the physical imprint with Connors driving Ian Madigan backwards and Josh Murphy’s excellent maul defence thwarting an Ulster attack.
Successive scrum penalties either side of the interval kept Leinster on course, with Byrne opening the second half with three more points. Ulster could not profit from a Cooney break, set up by an otherwise well-marshalled Marcell Coetzee.
Things finally clicked for them, though, in the 53rd minute, a penalty kicked to the corner and a well-executed catch-and-drive seeing hooker Herring power over for Cooney to convert. Responding to injuries picked up by Stockdale and Jordi Murphy, Ulster’s bench drove on their comeback bid with the fast ruck ball and improved angles of running leading to a Cooney three-pointer for 16-10.
But Ross Byrne’s younger brother Harry steered Leinster home as they prepare for a Dublin semi-final date with either Munster or Scarlets. The 21-year-old’s inviting cross-field kick found open territory and the fresh-legged Penny finished well past Louis Ludik with 72 minutes gone.
Then, after Cooney did all the hard work running in a terrific intercept try from 65 metres out only to be caught offside at the ruck on the TMO review, it was left to the younger Byrne to crash over from a few metres out in the 78th minute and he added the conversion himself for an 18-point winning margin.
All Llanelli eyes will now be on the Aviva in Dublin on Sundayhttps://t.co/nvcYPoR6ov
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 29, 2020
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