Ulster U18 Clubs lost 12 -31 to Leinster U18 Clubs in the final round of the IRFU U18 Interprovincials at the University of Limerick on Sunday afternoon.
Leinster went on to lift the Club Trophy after three wins from three and Ulster ended the tournament, for the second season running, without a win. However, on the evidence of this match the gap is not as big as the statistics would indicate.
Ulster started strongly and were on the scoreboard before I even got my camera pointing in the right direction, with hooker Ben McCullough chasing down a blocked clearance out wide for an unconverted try.
It took Leinster some time to find a reply with Ulster’s strong defensive efforts causing plenty of spilt ball but the champions elect found their way to the line at the end of the first quarter with second row Ruairi Clarke crossing for Fionn O’Hara to convert.
As with so many Ulster sides this weekend the Club team started to get bossed a bit at the ruck, which obviously destroys consistent phase building, and, with most of the play now centered in the Ulster half, the Leinster lads took full advantage to run in two more scores before the break with their winger Conor Gibney picking up a quick brace. O’Hara converted one to give Leinster a 5 – 19 lead at the break.
Leinster’s fullback looked to have crossed at the start of the second half but it was ruled out for a forward pass and Ulster were next on the scoresheet with second row Sebastian Hastings finding the line after a period of sustained pressure in the Leinster 22. Tyler McNeill added the conversion to take the score to 12 – 19 as the final quarter approached.
Unfortunately for Ulster it was Leinster who cut loose in the final stages adding twelve more points through a try from Jack Hanlon and a try and conversion from Fionn O’Hara to give a final score of Ulster U18 Club 12 Leinster U18 Club 31.
I had the pleasure of covering four Ulster Interpros this weekend and I enjoyed the efforts from all the teams, the players really did work hard. However, the three sides that lost out all struggled, at their comparative levels, with their passing and their work at the breakdown.
It may be the unglamorous side of a coaches toolkit doing repetitive drills until the players react instinctively under pressure but to me it’s the most important.