OFFICIAL Rugby League Ireland Match Report: Ulster Rugby League I XIII v Leinster Rugby League I XIII

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Ulster 12-10 Leinster

In a sweltering Belfast it took a JJ Baird brace to give Ulster the narrowest of victories over reigning inter-provincial champions Leinster.

In front of a good crowd both sides got off to a tense start as neither team wanted to make an early error that would give their opponents the impetus.

In fact Leinster’s expansive approach to the game meant they found space outside the Ulster defence but uncharacteristic mistakes meant they couldn’t put the finishing moves to some fantastic back line moves.

Ulster on the other hand were quite content with using their forwards to try to make yardage up the centre of the park but for the most part Leinster’s tackling was solid with the host’s struggling to find any holes in their defence.

As both teams felt themselves out it took nearly fifteen minutes for the deadlock to be broken when a neat chip over the top of the Leinster defence found second row Baird who was in acres of space in behind the visitors line. The Irish student coolly strolled in under the posts to touch down and give Nick Finlay an easier kick at goal. Finlay was grateful for this as he slotted over the conversion to give his side a 6-0 lead.

This lead to a period of sustained pressure from Ulster but Leinster were determined not to concede another as it would have made life very difficult given both teams strong defence.

However, after all their work in the backs one of Leinster’s sweeping back moves cut more holes in the Ulster line and this time there was no mistakes as captain Joe Taylor was put over to bring his side to within two points of the hosts. Winger Adam Hughes then added the conversion to level the teams up once more.

This would be the last meaningful action of the half as the teams remained deadlocked at the break. Both sides would have been feeling confident as the game could truly have gone either way at the halfway point.

It would be Leinster who got the better of the early second half proceedings when they piled on the pressure and held large amounts of possession inside the Ulster twenty metre line. However, like Leinster in the first half Ulster’s defence seemed to be a match to the visitors attack.

That was until Leinster went to their backs once more and this time Hughes was put into space on the wing and he dived over to put Leinster ahead for the first time. His conversion however, was wide of the mark and left the scoreline at 10-6 to Leinster.

This was a massive boost for Leinster and it looked like they had extended their lead further when a jinking run from Bernard Westman seemed to have put him over the line but the referee deemed that he was short.

From this Ulster seemed to switch back on and it would be Baird who gave them the boost they needed when he spotted a rare hole in Leinster line and accelerated through it to go the length of the field and touch down in the corner. The position of the try put all of the pressure on Finlay as he looked to retain his sides lead. And that he did with a beautiful kick. This left Ulster 12-10 up.

After this the hosts were determined not to give up their lead and despite Finlay missing a penalty from in front of the posts they held onto their lead to avenge their defeat at the hands of Leinster last season.

The 12-10 finish means Ulster now sit top of the table with a trip south to Cork in two weeks time where they could seal their first ever Inter-Provincial Championship should they beat Munster.

Next for Leinster it’s a home game against Munster where they will be looking for redemption.

1. A Finlay (Fermanagh Redskins)
2. P James (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
3. N Beattie (Belfast Bulldogs)
4. K Calladine (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
5. R Hart (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
6. J Cullen (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
7. N Finlay (Fermanagh Redskins)
8. R Bennett (Fermanagh Redskins)
9. M Hadden (Antrim Eels)
10. D Rooney (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
11. J Madden (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
12. JJ Baird (Antrim Eels)
13. G Taylor (Ballyahinch Rabbitohs
14. S Corr (Maiden City Broncos)
15. T Frazer (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
16. G Gill (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
17. A Hodgen (Belfast Bulldogs)

Tries: JJ Baird (2)
Conversions: N Finlay 2/2
Penalties: N Finlay 0/1

1. J Taylor (Dublin City Exiles)
2. A Hughes (Dublin City Exiles)
3. M Fitzmaurice (Ashbourne Stags)
4. G Crawford (Dublin City Exiles)
5. R Keatley (Dublin City Exiles)
6. B Westman (Portarlington Wolverines)
7. C McNally (Dublin City Exiles)
8. R Gleeson (Ashbourne Stags)
9. N O’Keeffe (Ashbourne Stags)
10. S Oakley (Portarlington Wolverines)
11. C Farrell (Dublin City Exiles)
12. A Trenier (Dublin City Exiles)
13. P Barcoe (Dublin City Exiles)
14. B O’Brien (Dublin City Exiles)
15. P Carr (Portarlington Wolverines)
16. A McCreery (Ballyfermot Bears)
17. C Roche (Ashbourne Stags)

Tries: J Taylor, A Hughes
Conversions: A Hughes 1/2

Referee: Paul Baxter
Half Time: 6-6
Full Time: 12-10

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