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Lions duo lead Leinster to PRO14 Rainbow Cup victory over Ulster

By PA
(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Tries from British and Irish Lions duo Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw did the damage for Leinster in a hard-earned 21-17 win over Ulster at the RDS Arena.

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Following Munster’s defeat to Connacht, Leinster are now right back in the hunt for a place in next month’s north-versus-south PRO14 Rainbow Cup final.

An intense first half finished at seven points apiece, Cian Healy cancelling out Robert Baloucoune’s opening try with both defences thoroughly tested throughout.

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Following a Billy Burns penalty, the hosts kicked it up a gear with replacement Conan and player of the match Henshaw both crossing before Craig Gilroy’s late score.

Ulster misfired in threatening positions early on, twice having line-outs stolen by James Ryan, and scrum-half David Shanahan was also stopped short of the line.

When the visitors pressed again in the 18th minute, they made it count. Jacob Stockdale expertly evaded a tackle from Dave Kearney and released winger Baloucoune for the right corner.

Burns, who added a fine conversion, was soon charged down by Ross Byrne, allowing Leinster to go close through Sean Cronin. A quick bout of pressure in the 22 ended with Healy driving in under the posts for Garry Ringrose to convert.

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Another missed chance for Ulster – this time from a maul – was preceded by an unsuccessful captain’s challenge from Iain Henderson, with referee Mike Adamson deeming there was no contact to the head in Henshaw’s big tackle on Baloucoune.

Ulster were unable to profit from a James Hume break, and while the returning Caelan Doris replied with a turnover penalty, Ulster held out just before the interval thanks to a key rip by Stockdale.

Burns followed up a missed penalty with a successful 51st-minute strike, rewarding another strong run by number eight Nick Timoney.

However, Leinster then began to put together some relentless passages of attacking play. Conan hit the line at pace, exploiting a defensive gap to charge over from outside the Ulster 22. Ringrose converted again.

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With their strong bench wielding influence, the reigning Guinness PRO14 champions enjoyed further gain-line success past the hour mark, leading to Henshaw muscling over from close range.

Showing his place-kicking prowess, Ringrose rifled over a classy conversion from wide out, yet the bonus-point try eluded Leinster.

A gallant Ulster closed out the scoring courtesy of replacement Ian Madigan’s long cut-out pass for Gilroy in the last minute. It sparked some late drama but there were no further chances.

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Flankly 8 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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