Leinster have made it 12 wins from 12 at the start of the season with a win over rivals Ulster in the PRO14 at the RDS tonight.
Leinster’s Max Deegan and Scott Penny both scored a brace of tries to add to five-pointers from Robbie Henshaw, Fergus McFadden, Cian Kelleher and Rob Kearney to wrap-up a comprehensive victory.
Leinster had the perfect start to the game as Deegan scored the opening try of the night when he powered over from close range after just over three-minutes. Harry Byrne sent the conversion between the posts to make it 7-0.
Ulster came flying back and were camped in the Leinster 22, as the home side conceded penalty after penalty, with the visitors refusing to take the three-points from a kickable position.
They were rewarded for their patience when they spread the ball wide to winger Angus Kernohan from a scrum and he bolted over the line to touch-down. Bill Johnston sent over a lovely conversion to level the scores with 10 minutes on the clock.
However, just as Ulster had done, Leinster hit back right after the restart and held onto the ball for the next five minutes, edging closer and closer to the try-line, before eventually flanker Penny drove over for his team’s second try. Byrne made it two from two from the tee to make it 14-7.
Things got worse for the northern province heading towards the end of the first quarter as centre Matt Faddes was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Leinster debutant Tommy O’Brien.
Leinster took full advantage of the extra man and had their third try with 23-minutes on the clock as they powered forward, going through the phases before Penny again pushed over the line from close-range. Byrne smashed the extras over from the right-hand side of the posts to stretch the lead to 21-7, with Ulster full-back Rob Lyttle going off injured following the kick.
The home side had the bonus-point wrapped up before the half-hour mark as they took the ball up the field before Byrne chipped a perfectly weighted ball over to the right side of the pitch to Henshaw, who collected and strolled over for the fourth try. Byrne slotted a brilliant kick over from the right-touchline.
Ulster got another try on the board when Deegan sent a poor pass to Jamison Gibson-Park from a scrum near half-way and from there Faddes picked up the loose ball, sprinting forward and out-running the Leinster defence to score. Johnston hit the extras to cut Leinster’s lead to 28-14 with 36-minutes gone.
Although it was Leinster that had the last laugh of the half as Byrne showed some fantastic dancing feet to break through the opposition defence, before getting tapped to the ground, but got the pop-pass away. From there McFadden had the easy task of picking the ball up from a ruck in front of the try-line and bursting over. Byrne couldn’t add the extra two, but the hosts went in 33-14 up at the half-time whistle.
Leinster started where they left off in the first-half at the opening of the second-half, as they burst into the Ulster half before Byrne sent a long-pass out to Kearney, who stepped inside from the right-wing and barrelled over for the try. Byrne made no mistake with the kick to make it 40-14 with only five-minutes gone in the second-half.
Four-minutes later and they had their seventh try as McFadden showed some brilliant vision and skill as he took a quick penalty in his own half, kicking the ball from the right-wing to the left. Henshaw plucked the ball out of the sky and sent the ball left to Kelleher, who raced forward to score his try. Byrne made it six kicks from seven making it 47-14 with half and hour to go.
Ulster got a lucky third-try of the game as they approached the hour-mark, as Penny sent a loose pass toward the left-wing which Craig Gilroy intercepted and bolted over the line. Johnston again scored the conversion to make it 47-21.
With 63-minutes on the clock Leinster were in once again as Deegan picked from the back of a scrum and charged under the posts for his second try of the night. Byrne converted once more.
The scoring continued as the away side went over through Greg Jones which secured a bonus-point for them. Johnston maintained his 100% record from the tee with his fourth conversion of the game to make it 54-28.
Ulster’s fight-back continued as Jones went over for another try with eight minutes left. Johnston kicked a brilliant conversion from the left of the posts to cut into the lead late on.
Josh Murphy was shown a yellow-card after an accumulation of penalties from the home side in the final minute. From the resulting scrum replacement scrum-half darted over for his side’s sixth try of the game. Johnston converted with the final kick of the match to leave it at 54-42.
The win pushes Leinster further ahead at the top of Conference A with eight wins from eight in the PRO14, while Ulster will be encouraged by their late rally from their youngsters. Next up for Leinster is a trip to Munster on December 28th, while Ulster face Connacht the day before as they continue the inter-provincial derbies over the Christmas period.
Leinster Starting XV:
Rob Kearney (7), Fergus McFadden (8), Tommy O’Brien (7), Robbie Henshaw (8), Cian Kelleher (7), Harry Byrne (9), Jamison Gibson-Park (7); Peter Dooley (7), Sean Cronin (7), Andrew Porter (7), Scott Fardy (7), Josh Murphy (8), Will Connors (7), Scott Penny (9), Max Deegan (9)
Ulster Starting XV:
Rob Lyttle (5), Craig Gilroy (7), Matt Faddes (6), Angus Curtis (6), Angus Kernohan (6), Bill Johnston (7), David Shanahan (7); Andrew Warwick (6), Adam McBurney (6), Tom O’Toole (7), David O’Connor (6), Alan O’Connor (6), Matthew Rea (6), Nick Timoney (7), Greg Jones (7)
Graham Rowntree Confirmed As Next Munster Head Coach
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Graham Rowntree will be promoted from Forwards Coach to the role of Head Coach from July 1, 2022.
Rowntree will commence the role of Head Coach at the start of the 2022/23 season after signing a two-year deal.
The former England prop made the move to Limerick in October 2019 on completion of his Rugby World Cup coaching duties with Georgia Rugby.
In his third season as Forwards Coach Graham and family have settled well into Limerick life, noting earlier this year, “I have made my thoughts about this club widely known throughout my time so far, and for me and my family it really has been an easy decision, a non-decision if truth be told.
“We’ve put down roots here and have no desire to move anywhere else.”
With an impressive coaching CV and vast experience, Rowntree previously held coaching roles with the British and Irish Lions, England Rugby, Harlequins and Leicester Tigers.
Working closely with the IRFU, the province will advance with next steps in securing the backroom team that will work with Graham from next season as Head Coach Johann van Graan, Senior Coach Stephen Larkham, and Defence Coach JP Ferreira depart the province at the end of June.
IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented, “I would like to thank the Munster Professional Game Committee for their work and diligence during this process.
“It is important that Munster have someone who understands the unique history and culture of the club and has the experience to maximise the talent in the squad.
“Graham was very impressive throughout this process and demonstrated he has the capabilities to spearhead the next chapter of Munster Rugby.”
On confirmation of the promotion, Graham Rowntree added, “I am hugely honoured to be taking over the role of Head Coach for a club of this calibre, one that means so much to me and my family.
“We have thoroughly enjoyed every moment here and I fortunately get to work with an incredible group of staff and players who share a common goal each day in striving for success for this club.
“I’ve talked about our fantastic supporters before and again at the weekend we stepped off the bus to a huge red welcome in Exeter. Who doesn’t want to be part of that, that’s special!
“I believe we have the established structures in place with the resources and facilities to match and that it will be a smooth transition for the coaching ticket we assemble in ensuring continued development and success for this club.
“Before then I have a role to complete this season and working closely with Johann, Steve, and JP is the immediate focus and priority for now.”
Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “Graham’s extensive coaching experience and knowledge for the game makes him the perfect candidate to lead this squad forward.
“With Graham stepping up at the start of the new season it will be a seamless and natural progression from the work that has been carried out to-date.
“For now, we will continue our focus on the remainder of this season with Graham supporting Johann and the coaching staff in achieving our goals.”
Munster Rugby Home Fixtures
Saturday, April 16
Champions Cup Round of 16: Munster v Exeter Chiefs, Thomond Park, 3pm; Buy tickets here
Friday, April 29
URC: Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
Images & Content from Munster Rugby
Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby
London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.
The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.
O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011.
He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017.
O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation.
On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.
“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions.
“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years.
“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy.
“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.
“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland.
“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.
“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old.
“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport.
“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.
“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them.
“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.
“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us.
“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.
“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career.
“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey.
“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family.
“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years.
“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.
“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then.
“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.
“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be.
“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”
Ulster squad selected for Vodacom Bulls clash
The Ulster match-day squad to face Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday afternoon has been named.
Andrew Warwick will make his 150th appearance for the province as he has been named to start at loosehead prop and will be joined in the front row by Brad Roberts and Marty Moore. Iain Henderson comes into skipper the side at second row, and will partner fellow Irish international, Kieran Treadwell. Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney come in to start at blindside and openside flanker, with Duane Vermeulen at the base of the scrum at Number Eight.
Mike Lowry is selected to start at full-back, with Ben Moxham and Ethan McIlroy named on the wings. Luke Marshall and James Hume will form the centre partnership while Ian Madigan and Nathan Doak make up the half-back pairing.
The Ulster coaching team has opted for a 6-2 split on the bench, with Tom Stewart, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Mick Kearney, Matty Rea and Marcus Rea selected as forward reinforcements. John Cooney and Stewart Moore provide the back line cover.
Ulster team to play Vodacom Bulls, United Rugby Championship Round 14, Saturday 2 April at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, 1pm kick-off (UK / IRE time), live on SuperSport, Premier Sports & URC TV:
(15-9) Mike Lowry, Ben Moxham, James Hume, Luke Marshall, Ethan McIlroy, Ian Madigan, Nathan Doak;
(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Brad Roberts, Marty Moore, Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Tom Stewart, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Mick Kearney, Matty Rea, John Cooney, Marcus Rea, Stewart Moore.