ROUND 1 REVIEW -
MUNSTER 31 LEINSTER 27, St. Mary's RFC
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Luke McCabe, Kevin Allen, Ben Martin 2; Con: Ben Martin; Pens: Ben Martin 2; Drop: Ben Martin
Leinster: Tries: Andrew Turner, Ross Doyle, Chris Jebb, Ivor Deverell; Cons: Donal Crotty 2; Pen: Donal Crotty
Ben Martin was the star of Munster's opening Junior Interprovincial match against Leinster at Grove Island, as he helped the hosts run out 31-27 winners.
Martin put in a man-of-the-match performance, scoring 21 points in total, and he did not have to wait long to get his name on the scoreboard. With just one minute played he split the posts with a well-struck drop goal, giving the home side an early advantage.
Leinster were level on ten minutes when Coolmine out-half Donal Crotty answered back with a penalty goal. Both sides missed penalty chances before Kanturk's top try scorer Luke McCabe put Munster back in front.
Munster were made to work hard at the breakdown to retain possession in their opponents' 22 and when given the chance, McCabe carried through the contact five metres out and crashed over with two Leinster tacklers in tow for an unconverted try.
Leinster rallied immediately and centre Andrew Turner split the covering defence to run in under the posts, Crotty added the extras to give the visitors a slight lead.
Another Leinster try came from the restart, Ross Doyle putting the Blues seven points ahead of the home side with a score which went unconverted.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, Martin closed the gap with a penalty as John O'Neill's side looked to take advantage of the sin-binning of Leinster captain Victor Ryan.
From the restart, Munster were back on the attack and Martin shook off the first tackler on halfway and carried deep into the Leinster 22 before offloading to Stephen Burke. The Galbally man was held up just short, but Martin was back in the thick of it again and put Kevin Allen of Cobh through the gap for Munster's second try and a 16-15 half-time lead.
In the second period Munster were dominating across the pitch but it took 22 minutes for a score, Martin knocking over another penalty and five minutes later he added to his day's tally.
Stuart Lee carried from the back of a lineout on halfway and offered a superb offload to Martin who stepped through the three Leinster defenders and sauntered under the posts and converted. This proved to be the vital score. Martin added a second try to give Munster a 16-point buffer.
To their credit, Leinster produced a late rally which included two tries. Fresh legs from the bench seem to make the difference as Leinster scored a well-worked try by Clondalkin's Chris Jebb, converted by Crotty.
Although some gritty defence from Munster kept their line intact, a lineout five metres out led to Leinster's fourth try, a great take at the front of the line from Barry Stewart gave fellow replacement Ivor Deverell the opportunity to barrel over.
However, Crotty missed the conversion from wide out and Munster, defending smartly late on, fronted up and held firm to close out a thrilling four-point victory.
MUNSTER: Conor Cooney (Clonmel); Rob Carroll (Clonmel), Eoin Duffy (Waterpark), Luke McCabe (Kanturk), Greg Carroll (Clonmel); Ben Martin (Clonmel), Stuart Lee (Old Christians); Barry Kelly (St. Mary's), Mike Cronin (Castleisland), Brian O'Neill (Kanturk), Stephen Burke (Galbally), Ruari O'Donnell (St. Mary's), Brian Downey (St. Mary's), Kevin Allen (Cobh Pirates), Dan McCabe (Kanturk).
Replacements: Gareth Mulcahy (Clonmel), Patrick Ryan (St Senan's), Declan Moloney (Newcastle West), Barra Buckley (Kanturk), Dave O'Donoghue (Waterpark), Mark Chandler (Cobh Pirates), Darach Meade (Kanturk), Philippe Trippier (Kanturk).
LEINSTER: Niall O Donoghue (Coolmine); Dave Hogan (Newbridge ), Andy Turner (Tullow), Kenny Copeland (Wicklow), Ross Doyle (Portarlington); Donal Crotty (Coolmine), TC Campbell (Dundalk); Benny Gilligan (Longford), Johnny Lee (Coolmine), Simon O'Shea (Kilkenny), Niall Smullen (Wicklow), Victor Ryan (Kilkenny), Harley Murray (Wanderers), Ben Horan (Gorey), Adrian Hanley (Tullamore).
Replacements: Ger Moore (Cill Dara), Ger Molloy (Tullamore), Ivor Deverell (Tullamore), Barry Stewart (Longford), Rory Gleeson (Ashbourne), Dennis Higgins (Wicklow), Chris Jebb (Clondalkin).
CONNACHT 12 ULSTER 20, Ballina RFC
Scorers: Connacht: Tries: Dave Prior, Penalty try; Con: Jamie Murphy
Ulster: Tries: Andrew Hodgen, Ewan Strang; Cons: David O'Hara 2; Pens: David O'Hara 2
The Ulster Juniors made a winning start to the 2013 Championship by beating Connacht, last year's champions, 20-12 at Ballina RFC on Saturday.
After a cagey first 20 minutes, the deadlock was broken by a fine break by CIYMS centre Andrew Hodgen who evaded three tackles to dot down under the posts. His club-mate David O'Hara added the conversion to give Ulster a 7-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the visitors, captain Scott Nelson had to be replaced on 34 minutes due to a back injury and a reshuffle saw Paul McKenzie (Donaghadee) come on at full-back.
The disruption may have caused Ulster to lose concentration as Connacht replied with a try from OLBC centre Dave Prior. Following a couple of difficult penalty misses by Ulster, the scoreline remained at 7-5 for half-time.
Just five minutes into the second half and after some sustained pressure by Ulster, who were now beginning to play some expansive rugby, McKenzie put Ewan Strang of Ballymoney over for a well-worked try. O'Hara again added the extras.
However, Ulster were having problems with the match officials' interpretation of the front row scrummaging and Portadown prop Mark Neilly was duly sin-binned.
After a long period of Connacht pressure, a penalty try was awarded to the westerners and the simple conversion was knocked over by Jamie Murphy for a 14-12 scoreline.
As the Ulster coaches began to utilise their bench, Chris Nash (Academy), Philip Eadie (Donaghadee) and Gary Weatherup (Ballyclare) joined the fray.
Enniskillen's Jamie Johnston did get on for his first cap but had to be brought off soon after as a Mal Allister yellow card meant a front row replacement was required.
The game began to open up and Connacht were prevented from scoring an intercept try by a wonderful covering tackle by Hodgen.
O'Hara kicked two more penalties and although he was subsequently yellow carded as Ulster finished the game down to 13 men, they continued to play the more enterprising rugby and ran out worthy winners.
CONNACHT: Seamus Fahy (Monivea); Conor Mulligan (OLBC), Dave Prior (OLBC), Jerome Harrimate (Ballina), Cillian Waldron (UCG); Jamie Murphy (Tuam), Mickey Murphy (Ballina); Tom Toolan (Ballina), Martin Lee (Corrib), Ronan Coughlan (Monivea), Liam Scahill (Westport), James Moran (OLBC), Philip Timoney (Ballina), John Hayes (Ballinasloe), Aidan McNulty (Ballina).
Replacements: Richard Kelly (Ballina), Patrick Mullins (Loughrea), Brian Flannery (Castlebar), David O'Reilly (OLBC), Michael Ward (Monivea), Donncha Carey (OLBC), Conor Dever (Ballina).
ULSTER: Chris Cousens (Portadown); Ewan Strang (Ballymoney), Andrew Hodgen ( CIYMS), Nick Finlay (Enniskillen), Norman Carson ( Academy); David O'Hara ( CIYMS), Scott Nelson ( Ballymoney); Mark Neilly ( Portadown), Mal Allister (Portadown), Mark Smyth (Omagh), Gareth Fitzpatrick (Dromore), David Sharkey (Clogher Valley), Richard Henderson (Academy), Chris Hamilton (Donaghadee), Michael Rainey (Ballyclare).
Replacements: Chris Nash (Academy), Phil Eadie (Donaghadee), Andrew Kelly (Grosvenor), Jamie Johnston (Enniskillen), Gary Weatherup (Ballyclare), Niall Irwin (Coleraine), Paul McKenzie (Donaghadee).
ROUND 2 FIXTURES -
ULSTER v MUNSTER, Coleraine RFC, Saturday, May 4, 2.30pm
LEINSTER v CONNACHT, Longford RFC, Saturday, May 4, 2.30pm