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Ex-Leinster player seals dramatic Ulster win over former side

James Ryan, left, and Luke McGrath of Leinster after their side's defeat in the United Rugby Championship match between Ulster and Leinster at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

John Cooney slotted over a last-gasp long-range penalty to earn Ulster a 23-21 win over Leinster and guarantee them a place in the United Rugby Championship play-offs.


Tries from Rob Herring and Jacob Stockdale also contributed to a vital Ulster victory in what was a tense Irish derby, with Cooney kicking both conversions and two other penalties to go with his match-winning strike.

Leinster, who led for most of the game at Kingspan Stadium, took a losing bonus point and have assured themselves of a top-four finish a week before their European Champions Cup final clash with Toulouse.

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Franco Smith on importance of each URC as Lions looms

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Franco Smith on importance of each URC as Lions looms

After dominating the opening exchanges and having Michael Lowry breach the Leinster line twice but not be awarded either effort, the hosts put a 13th-minute penalty to the corner.

From there, Ulster launched a maul and Herring touched down for a score that was awarded after referee Andrea Piardi had gone upstairs.

Leinster levelled things up in the 22nd minute after Billy Burns’ kick was charged down by Will Connors who then fed the supporting Charlie Ngatai who touched down. Harry Byrne converted, and the score stood at 7-7.

United Rugby Championship
23 - 21
All Stats and Data

Leinster then took the lead after 29 minutes, Hugo Keenan making a line break and throwing an inside pass to the supporting Cormac Foley who ran clear for the visitors’ second score, once again Byrne adding the straightforward two points.


Cooney slotted a 31st-minute penalty to cut the Leinster lead to 14-10, which is how the first half ended.

Three minutes after the restart Cooney landed his second penalty to cut Leinster’s lead a solitary point.

However, the visitors moved further clear again when, following a series of pick and jams on the line, Michael Ala’alatoa drove over on after minutes.

Byrne’s conversion left Leinster leading 21-13 but Ulster came back again to make it a one-point contest.


Jacob Stockdale intercepted a Byrne pass and raced nearly the length of the field, with Cooney adding a superb conversion and the hosts trailed 21-20 heading into the final 20 minutes.

It was set up for an epic finish and it fell to Cooney with three minutes remaining, his long-range penalty winning the game and ensuring Ulster a play-off place.



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1 Comment
Turlough 35 days ago

Excellent match. Great to see Keenan and Ryan back for Leinster. Super result for Ulster. Season is turning around.

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