Ulster A recorded a comfortable win against their Leinster counterparts in Friday afternoon’s squad hit out at Ravenhill which was broadcast on the BBC iPlayer. I noticed that the match was billed as a friendly during the coverage but there have been a series of Academy matches in September and December 2020.
Ulster A (9) 37
TRY: Aaron Sexton (2), Callum Reid, Marcus Rea
CON: Bill Johnston (4)
PEN: Bill Johnston (3)
Leinster A (0) 14
TRY: Jack Dunne, Liam Turner
CON: David Hawkshaw (2)
Ever since the IRFU disbanded the provincial U20’s squads in 2017 these type of games have become fairly inconsequential in a competitive sense and are used as an opportunity to hand out game time for experienced players and have a look at a few youngsters.
The Ulster management team will happy with what they saw as the home team largely dominated proceedings outside of a five minute burst from the visitors after half time.
With a more experienced front row, Ulster were set to dominate proceedings in the forwards and they largely did but, despite playing an attractive offloading game, they will be disappointed that they turned round only leading 9 – 0, through three Bill Johnston penalties. A few chances went begging, the most entertaining being a delightful grubber from David McCann for Conor Rankin who was just unable to twist his body round quickly enough as he slid at speed over the touch in goal line.
McCann continues to strengthen his claim as replacement for Marcell Coetzee after another strong performance against Leinster A
Leinster had a few moments in the first half but Ulster’s aggressive defence saw a few timely interceptions and their pack, with McCann outstanding, were able to produce turnovers when it counted leaving the score a 9 – 0 as the teams changed ends.
Ulster finally crossed the line a few minutes after the restart. Ben Carson and Hayden Hyde look a great combination in midfield and they, along with McCann and Nathan Doak engineered a break down the right for Hyde to off load to Arron Sexton as he took out the last line of defence. Sexton slid over in the corner and Johnston landed the difficult conversion to give Ulster a 16 – 0 lead.
Carson had a strong debut at this level combing well with Hayden Hyde and Nathan Doak in Ulster A’s midfield.
Leinster had a golden spell shortly after and hit back fairly effortlessly with two well worked tries as Jack Dunne crossed minutes before Liam Turner sprinted home. David Hawkshaw landed both conversions and it looked ominous with the score now at 16 – 14 after 50 minutes.
However a delightful break from replacement Callum Reid, saw the Banbridge prop sprint home from something between 30 and 60 yards, depending on who’s telling it! Johnston, who nailed every kick, added the extras to extend Ulster’s lead to 23 – 14.
That was pretty much it. Leinster had to attack and the Ulster fliers were pretty much able to pick them off on the counter. A break by Ben Moxham ended with Johnston chipping for Sexton to cross for his second out wide and in the dying minutes replacement Reuben Crothers had an immediate impact, catching and driving a lineout to the try line for Marcus Rea to score.
Johnston, of course, converted both to give a final score of Ulster A 37 Leinster A 14
Ulster A: Aaron Sexton, Ben Moxham, Hayden Hyde, Ben Carson, Conor Rankin, Bill Johnston, Nathan Doak, Gareth Milasinovich, Adam McBurney, Ross Kane, Cormac Izuchukwu, Conor McMenamin, Harry Sheridan, Marcus Rea, David McCann (C). Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Reuben Crothers, James McCormick, Lewis Finlay, James Humphreys.
Leinster A: Max O’Reilly, Cian Kelleher, Jamie Osborne, Liam Turner, Niall Comerford, David Hawkshaw, Cormac Foley, Marcus Hanan, Dan Sheehan, Greg McGrath, Joe McCarthy, Jack Dunne (C), Ryan Baird, Sean O’Brien, Alex Soroka. Replacements: Lee Barron, Jack Boyle, Tom Clarkson, Mark Morrissey, Mark Hernan, Patrick Patterson, Tim Corkery, Chris Cosgrave.
As a squad hit out it was a useful enough work out and it certainly was an entertaining game as Ulster persisted with their offloading game. I was disappointed with the Leinster performance but, while I wouldn’t read too much into the result, Ulster did have a lot positive performances.
In my preview I had stated that Ulster had shipped 147 points over the last three “competitive games” but I had forgotten the behind closed door hit out they had in September at the RDS where Ulster won 14 – 29. I don’t think that this has been declared an actual Interprovincial championship and, with a great deal of uncertainty over fixtures, it probably won’t be but the results so far for these “Academy” type games are as follows.
|Sat, 19 Sep 20||Connacht Eagles||19||Munster A||22|
|Fri, 25 Sep 20||Leinster A||14||Ulster A||29|
|Sat, 26 Sep 20||Munster A||40||Connacht Eagles||12|
|Sat, 12 Dec 20||Ulster A||22||Munster A||10|
|Sat, 12 Dec 20||Leinster A||44||Connacht Eagles||14|
|Fri, 18 Dec 20||Munster A||34||Leinster A||25|
|Fri, 18 Dec 20||Connacht Eagles||19||Ulster A||19|
|Fri, 15 Jan 21||Ulster A||37||Leinster A||14|
My reading is that the games in September were just to get match time for the players after the first lockdown. The second set in December and January look like an attempt at an Interpro Series but I’m not seeing anything scheduled for Munster A v Connacht Eagles this weekend which would complete a series.