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Leinster show their class to outshine Ulster in PRO14 final

Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier

Leinster became the first side to win the PRO14 title three years in a row when they had more than enough firepower to see off Ulster in the most surreal final in the history of the competition.

An empty Aviva Stadium may have provided the strangest background but it was the same old story from Leo Cullen’s men who will now quickly turn their attention to Saracens in the Heineken Challenge Cup quarter-final this weekend.

And they will go into that on the back of a 25-match winning run in all competitions, after becoming the first side to win all their games on their way to capturing the PRO14 title. You can back Leinster to end the season in style with this Ladbrokes promo code for 2020.

Their seventh title in the competition was never really questioned by Dan McFarland’s men who were unable to build on a bright opening before Leinster took charge and bossed matters from there to the end in another superb display of controlled rugby.

Ulster, searching for their first trophy since winning this crown in 2006, needed a big start to give them hope of toppling the champions and they got it after four minutes when centre James Hume punished some uncharact eristic hesitancy by Leinster at the breakdown by racing down the left to score.

Billy Burns was unable to add the difficult conversion to complete the perfect start, but Leinster weren’t fazed by the concession of an early score and quickly got on top with Garry Ringrose, skippering the side for the first time, leading the way with Caelan Doris and Jack Conan also prominent.

They stretched the Ulster defence and got their reward after 13 minutes when a sweeping move from the right was finished off when a deft pass from scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park found James Lowe over in the left corner for his 30th try in 46 appearances for Leinster.

Ross Byrne added the touchline conversion and after a penalty to the corner was held up with the concession of another penalty, he extended the lead from in front of the posts.

Leinster held that 10-5 scoreline to the break as Ulster failed to convert ample possession into scores, twice going to the corner with penalties but coming away empty-handed when a poor pass from Burns was knocked on by try-scorer Hume.

Ulster’s hopes of responding after the restart were dashed when Sean Reidy was pinged for a clumsy tackle on Ringrose and Byrne slotted the penalty from 45 metres to make it 13-5 after 44 minutes.

Leinster, with flanker Josh van der Flier continuing to dominate, turned the screw when Robbie Henshaw superbly read a pass from Burns to Marcell Coetzee to run in unchallenged from inside halfway to score under the posts, with Byrne’s conversion making it 20-5.

Ulster emptied the bench in the hope of repeating their superb comeback win against Edinburgh but Leinster had some heavy armoury to introduce, with Johnny Sexton and Luke McGrath taking over at half-back.

McGrath gave Leinster plenty of go-forward ball and after a period of relentless attacking, the replacement scrum-half set up Doris for their third try when the flanker had the power to break through the challenge of former Leinster players Jordi Murphy and Ian Madigan to score under the posts.

Sexton’s conversion made it 27-5 but by then Leinster’s thoughts had turned to Saracens next weekend, the last side to beat them when Mark McCall’s men triumphed in the Champions Cup final at St James Park in Newcastle in May last year. A lot of has changed since then.

JOHN FALLON


Team ratings:

Leinster: Larmour 6; Keenan 7, Ringrose 8 (O’Loughin 68, 6), Henshaw 7, Lowe 7; R Byrne 7 (Sexton 59, 7), Gibson-Park 7 (McGrath 59, 7); Healy 6 (E Byrne 52, 7), Kelleher 6 (Tracy 62, 7), Porter 7 (Bent 63, 7); Toner 7, Ryan 6 (Fardy 63, 7); Doris 8, van der Flier 8 (Connors 74, 7), Conan 7.

Ulster: Lowry 7; Lyttle 6, Hume 7, McCloskey 7, Stockdale 6; Burns 6 (Madigan 55, 7), Mathewson 6 (Cooney 47, 7); O’Sullivan 6 (McGrath 47, 7), Herring 6 (Andrew 21-32, 7), O’Toole 7 (Moore 55, 6); O’Connor 7, Henderson 6 (Carter 47, 7); Rea 7 (Murphy 56, 7), Reidy 7, Coetzee 6 (Timoney 47, 7).

Referee: Andrew Brace

Star Man: Josh van der Flier – Leinster

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