United Rugby Championship: 14-man Leinster produce stunning comeback to beat Ulster and maintain winning run

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Leinster appeared set to succumb to their first defeat of the season, but they showed their champion qualities to overcome Ulster 38-29 in the United Rugby Championship at the RDS Arena.

The scores were level at 3-3 – Ross Byrne and John Cooney trading penalties – when Cian Healy was sent off for head-to-head contact.

Ulster initially took advantage, going 22-3 in front just shy of the interval through Rob Herring, Kieran Treadwell and Ethan McIlroy tries.

At that point, the game seemed over but Ronan Kelleher’s score on the stroke of half-time gave the hosts the momentum.

Leinster then proceeded to produce a superb display in the second period with Garry Ringrose leading the charge.

The centre touched down twice while Andrew Porter and James Lowe also went over to complete a remarkable turnaround in Dublin, despite Sam Carter’s late consolation.

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Byrne’s second-minute penalty punished Stuart McCloskey for not rolling away before Cooney levelled to reward Martin Moore for forcing a scrum penalty.

Knock-ons from Jamison Gibson-Park and Billy Burns summed up a stop-start opening quarter, yet the loss of Healy was immediately exploited by the visitors.

Stewart’s replacement Herring scored from a lineout drive in the left corner, Cooney nailing the difficult conversion for a 10-3 lead.

After Burns drew a high tackle from Byrne, McCloskey and Moore were stopped short before powerful lock Treadwell widened the margin to 14 points.

Leinster were stung further when Stewart Moore used turnover ball to race clear up the right and release McIlroy to canter to the posts.

Hooker Kelleher piled over from a late maul, with Byrne converting from out wide, and Leinster’s international-laden bench brought plenty of impact.

Ringrose nimbly spun away from Hume for a slick 58th-minute try, converted by Byrne. It was a double blow for Ulster, with Hume sin-binned for head contact.

Increasing his influence, Ringrose soon stepped inside two defenders to move his side ahead at 24-22. Timoney saw yellow for collapsing a maul beforehand.

With more gaps opening up, the influential Porter plunged over from a ruck.

Byrne then scooped a long pass out for Lowe to strike in the 75th minute before Carter made sure Ulster took something home.

Bulls ease past Cardiff in Pretoria

Cardiff came up well short in their bid to complete a South African double as they suffered a 45-9 defeat to the Bulls in Pretoria.

Dai Young’s men pulled off a stunning 35-0 victory over the Sharks in Durban last weekend, becoming the first Welsh region to win in the southern hemisphere since the United Rugby Championship’s inception last season.

The tourists were firmly in the contest for much of the first half, but tries from returning Springboks Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse helped the in-form Bulls take control.

Johan Goosen, who kicked 11 points in total, added a try early in the second half to move the hosts 15 clear, before Ruan Nortje wrapped up the bonus point, Moodie doubled his tally and Elrigh Louw also touched down late on.

Jarrod Evans brought up his 500th career point in the competition by kicking Cardiff into a second-minute lead, but parity was soon restored by a Goosen penalty.

Evans nudged the Blue and Blacks back in front and the Bulls suffered a blow when David Kriel – scorer of two tries against the Ospreys last weekend – was forced off with an apparent ankle injury midway through the half.

Cardiff were more than holding their own, but there was a lack of action in either 22 as both sides struggled to make their mark in attack.

When the breakthrough did arrive, it was finished off by two of the Bulls’ returning Boks, with Arendse sending Moodie over.

Goosen added the extras, but Evans had Cardiff back within a point shortly after the half-hour mark.

Arendse crossed himself before the break – adding to the five tries he scored for South Africa in November – and Goosen’s conversion made it 17-9 at the interval.

Goosen gave himself a simple kick by touching down under the posts early in the second half and was on target again when captain Nortje crashed over for the bonus point on the hour.

Arendse and Moodie combined again when the latter chased down the former’s chip to touch down before Louw completed the scoring, with Chris Smith converting both.

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