It's all over at the RDS Arena and it was a fantastically balanced contest ⚖️
Both @leinsterrugby and @BenettonRugby refused to take a backward step and it went right to the wire ???
A deserved draw ?#GUINNESSPRO14 #LEIvBEN pic.twitter.com/Knfod4g8J4— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 6, 2019
The Italian side have shown massive signs of improvement this season and this result only proved that more as they took points away from Dublin for the second year in a row. Following a 17-15 win against the blues last season.
Benetton got off to the perfect start with Luca Bigi touching down after 12 minutes, Tommaso Allan converted, and the visitors were 7-0 up.
Leinster responded well with Noel Reid kicking a penalty three minutes later to make it 7-3. However, within three minutes of that kick Allan slotted home three points of his own to give his side a seven-point lead once more.
Noel Reid went off injured, but replacement Ciaran Frawley took up where he left off, knocking over a penalty to reduce the deficit on 25 minutes.
Another penalty from the boot of Allan just before the 40-minute mark left it at 13-6 to Benetton at half-time.
Half-time at the RDS Arena ?
?? @BenettonRugby have come to play, bringing the fight to @leinsterrugby with some physical phase-play ?
Can the Italians continue this good form and work toward the knockout stage? ?♂️#GUINNESSPRO14 #LEIvBEN pic.twitter.com/Q2MRaElq29— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 6, 2019
Leinster needed a big response and drew first blood in the second-half as James Lowe barrelled his way over the line after some great work from captain Luke McGrath and man of the match Max Deegan.
Frawley sent the extras between the posts and it was all level.
Tremendous work-rate and typically abrasive at the breakdown from @MaxDeegan ? who churned through a shed load of work for @leinsterrugby ?
Here he receives his man of the match medal from Martina Flood#GUINNESSPRO14 #LEIvBEN pic.twitter.com/U9qbK39RtB— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 6, 2019
The Italian outfit were out in front again on 53 minutes when Federico Ruzza scored from close range and Allan was perfect from the tee once more to leave it at 20-13.
Roll on 10 minutes and the men in blue were level as Bryan Byrne found the whitewash and Frawley converted.
Leinster took the lead for the first time in the 70th minute through Frawley, after he was put through a gap by a lovely Conor O’Brien pass. Frawley converted his own try to push the home side 27-20 ahead.
However, Benetton had the final say as winger Iliesa Ratuva punished a couple of missed tackles to run in for a try with the clock in red. Allan held his nerve to convert and it finished all square at 27-27.
After the game Leinster head coach Leo Cullen applauded his side’s effort in the second-half as they lost both Reid and Mick Kearney to injury in the opening 40.
“In the second-half I though the effort from our guys was really good. I thought you could see how much it meant to them and it was a big chance for a lot of guys,” he said.
The result means Leinster have failed to win their last two Pro14 matches but they have managed to give a lot of younger players a chance to play since claiming first place in Conference B. The draw leaves Benetton only two points off second-placed Ulster in the conference and in with a real shout of reaching the play-offs for the first time.
Dan McFarland extends stay with Ulster for a further two years
Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, has renewed his commitment to the province by signing a new two-year contract extension.
Since joining the club in August 2018, Ulster has regularly competed at the knock-out stages of both the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup, including at the most recent Guinness PRO14 final – a first for the province in seven years.
Of his contract renewal, Dan McFarland, said:
“I’m delighted to be signing again with Ulster. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two and a half years working and learning with some really good people, and I’m looking forward to continuing to help drive on our improvement as a group and as individuals.
“As a group, we are extremely ambitious in our aim to be consistently competing for championships. With exciting young talent continuing to emerge out of our Academy system, joining forces with the proven talent within our squad – many of whom have been recently recognised at international level – I look forward to what the weeks and months ahead hold as we take on our next challenges in the domestic league and in Europe this season.”
Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, added:
“I’m extremely pleased to see Dan extend his commitment to Ulster Rugby, giving us the opportunity to continue to build on the fantastic work that he has done in his time here so far.
“It is plain to see, both on and off the field of play, the ethos that he has instilled in the group, and that is being borne out both in our performances and our results – a team of which the people of Ulster can be rightly and fiercely proud.
“I’m looking forward to working with Dan in the coming years, to see where we can take this. It’s an exciting prospect.”
Ulster & Leinster announce teams for huge Inter-Pro Clash
The team sees six changes to the side that defeated Munster at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday. Michael Lowry comes in to start at full-back and is joined on the wings by Matt Faddes and last weekend’s Player-of-the-Match, Ethan McIlroy. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will form the midfield duo, and in the half-backs, John Cooney will partner Billy Burns.
Andrew Warwick and Marty Moore are named at loosehead and tighthead prop, with Rob Herring completing the front row at hooker. Alan O’Connor comes in to pair with captain Sam Carter in the second row. Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee make up the starting back row forwards.
John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney will provide forward reinforcements off the bench. David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham will offer back line cover.
Ulster team to play Leinster Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 11, Friday 8 January at the RDS Arena (kick-off 7.35pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney.
(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (Capt.), Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.
The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Ulster Rugby in the RDS Arena in Round 11 of the Guinness PRO14 has been announced by Leo Cullen (KO 7.35pm live on eir Sport and RTÉ Radio).
Johnny Sexton will captain the team as a number of players return from injury for the top of Conference A clash.
Hugo Keenan is selected at full back with Jordan Larmour back after a shoulder injury to start on the right wing and Dave Kearney selected on the left.
Robbie Henshaw starts in the inside centre jersey with Ross Byrne starting outside him in the number 13 jersey for the first time in his Leinster senior career.
In the half-backs, Jamison Gibson-Park is joined by captain Johnny Sexton.
Cian Healy starts at loosehead prop with Andrew Porter at tighthead, while Seán Cronin makes his first start of the season at hooker after recovering from a thumb injury.
Former Australian international Scott Fardy is joined by James Ryan in the second row while, in the back row, fit-again Rhys Ruddock starts with Josh van der Flier at openside and Caelan Doris at number eight.
On the bench, Harry Byrne returns from a back injury picked up in the warm-up before the Northampton Saints game.
Team News from Ulster Rugby & Leinster Rugby
Ulster to welcome 1,000 fans for Scarlets clash
Ulster Rugby last night announced that 1,000 supporters will be welcomed to the Kingspan Stadium this weekend. Statement from Ulster Rugby below:
The Ulster Men have played behind closed doors since the opening game of the season against Benetton Rugby when the club successfully trialled the safe return of spectators following extensive consultation with the IRFU, Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Executive.
All 500 pairs of tickets will be made available to #TogetherUlster Members only via an online ballot process. Members who applied for tickets to the Benetton match but missed out due to limited availability will receive priority in the ballot.
Sunday night’s match will feature a mix of seating and terracing in operation across all four stands and the East Terrace. Tickets are again priced at £20 each, allocated in groups of two with two-metre physical distancing factored in.
The online ballot will be open for 24 hours from 1pm on Tuesday 17 November on the Ulster Rugby Ticket Account Manager, and account holders can apply for one pair of tickets per every Adult #TogetherUlster Membership held. All successful applicants will be notified on Wednesday evening once the ballot has closed and tickets have been allocated. Members will then have until 1pm on Thursday 19 November to confirm their ticket purchase and process payment.