Ulster Academy (20) 20
TRY: Aaron Cairns, Conor Field. CON: Johnny McPhillips (2). PEN: Johnny McPhillips (2)
Leinster Academy (19) 46
TRY: Jimmy O’Brien, Jordan Larmour (2), Jack Power (2) Will Connors, Barry Fitzpatrick. CON: Conor Dean (4). PEN: Conor Dean

Ulster Academy went down by two tries to seven against Leinster Academy at Shaws Bridge Sports Complex on Friday afternoon. Ulster battled to a 20 -19 lead at the break but a second half capitulation by the Ulster youngsters saw the visitors score 27 unanswered points as they cruised to victory.

I’d had a lot of hopes for this game having heard good reports of the new look Academy, now under the tutelage of Willie Anderson, but this was a poor display from Ulster’s youngsters who capitulated completely in a dismal second half performance as the Leinster youngsters cut loose to slice through the Ulster midfield all too easily.

I’d stated in my preview that this would be a battle of preparation against experience, with Leinster largely represented by their U20’s compared to Ulster’s mix of U20’s and Senior Academy players and the familiarity of the Leinster team had an early impact with Jimmy O’Brien finishing off a cross field kick which saw the Ulster defence at sixes and sevens.

Ulster got back into the game with a Johnny McPhillips penalty and the home side looked to be dominating things up front and by the quarter hour mark the match looked to be going one way when Lorcan Dow broke up the left wing to set, the impressive, Aaron Cairns free to score unopposed. McPhillips slotted over the conversion and Ulster led 10 – 5.

An intercept by Tom Stapeley set Conor Field on his way for Ulster’s second, McPhillips again converting, and with the score at 17 – 5 and scrums and lineouts under their control it looked as though Ulster were cruising.

However, Leinster hit back with a try from Jordan Larmour, converted by Conor Dean, to take the score to 17 – 12 after 25 mins.

Larmour was carded, just before the break, for a reckless charge on Cairns, giving Ulster an ideal opportunity to increase their lead but the home side were beginning to look to be running out of puff, their work at the breakdown, and in support, laboured and, frankly, lazy. Leinster sensed the lack of application and took full advantage with a converted try from Power to retake the lead 17 – 19 with minutes to go to half time.

There was still hope though as the now disjointed Ulster managed to raise themselves enough to reclaim the lead with the final kick of the half, Johnny McPhillips slotting over a penalty, to take the score to 20 – 19.

The second half was truly dismal from an Ulster perspective. The home sides resistance lasted all of ten minutes, largely pinned in their own half, and when Larmour went over for his second score, taking the score to 20 -24, all resistance vanished.

Looking much fitter, and far more organised, the Leinster youngsters cut loose in some style, scything through the Ulster midfield with ease and frankly they should have added a couple of more tries to their total of seven.

Will Connors started the route, scoring after a bustling break up the middle, and, with McPhillips missing a straightforward penalty, the one way traffic continued as Power crossed for his second try of the game, converted by Dean, to take the score to 20 – 38.

Dean slotted over a penalty in front of the posts before departing and Barry Fitzpatrick completed the humiliation with a late score.

Final Score: Ulster Academy 20 Leinster Academy 46

Ulster Academy: Conor Kelly, Conor Field, David Busby, Tom Stapeley, Aaron Cairns, Johnny McPhillips, Angus Lloyd, Michael Lagan, Zac McCall, Craig Trenier, Alex Thompson, John Donnan, Nick Timoney, Lorcan Dow, Marcus Rea. Replacements: Adam McBurney, Tommy O’Hagan, Peter Cooper, Alistair Burke, Connor Smyth, Jonny Stewart, Andy McGrath, Callum Smith.

First game of the season for the Academy and plenty to work on for Willie Anderson. The most disappointing aspect was that Ulster looked to have the beating of their counterparts midway through the first half but too many of the Ulster players rested on their laurels when they went into a 17 – 5 lead, fitness, application and organisation being the main concerns! Oh dear!  😕

Pictures below from Hugh Wilkinson.


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