ROUND 1 RESULTS -
LEINSTER 13 MUNSTER 8, Wexford Wanderers RFC
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Niall O'Donoghue, Joni Butterworth; Pen: Bill Duggan
Munster: Try: Eoin Duffy; Pen: Stuart Lee
ULSTER 62 CONNACHT 6, Larne RFC
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Jamie Johnston, Mike Aspley, Gary Clotworthy, Chris Nash, Ashley Finlay, Scott Finlay, Chris Hamilton, Jason Morgan 2; Cons: Gary Clotworthy 4, Jason Morgan 3; Pen: Gary Clotworthy
Connacht: Pens: Shane Sweeney 2
Ulster are the early leaders in the IRFU Junior Interprovincial Championship after running out comfortable 62-6 winners over Connacht at a sunny but windy Larne RFC.
Playing into the wind in the first half, Ulster went behind in the fourth minute to a Connacht penalty from out-half Shane Sweeney.
This was cancelled out by Ballyclare clubman Gary Clotworthy's 11th-minute penalty. Sweeney from Connemara then split the posts again to move Connacht 6-3 ahead, but that proved to be their final score of the match.
Ulster's scrum began to dominate with an excellent display from the tight forwards and following a Connacht yellow card, Ulster drove over for their first try, scored by Enniskillen's impressive number 8 Jamie Johnston on the stroke of half-time. Clotworthy's missed conversion left it 8-6 for the interval.
It did not take Ulster long to get into their stride after the break with a converted try from Bangor's Mike Aspley.
The Ulster forwards continued to provide an excellent platform and quality ball for the backs. In the 50th minute centre Clotworthy scored an excellent try and converted it himself for a 22-6 lead.
With matches on three consecutive weekends, Ulster coaches Alasdair McKee and Paul McKenzie wisely used the rolling substitutions available to them and introduced the replacements who continued the attractive and open rugby Ulster had begun to play.
Further tries from Chris Nash (Academy), Ashley and Scott Finlay (both Cooke), Chris Hamilton (Donaghadee) and two from Jason Morgan (Bangor) were the result of some excellent handling moves as Connacht began to wilt under the pressure.
Clotworthy finished with a haul of 16 points with four conversions added to his try and penalty and Morgan equalled his centre partner's tally with two tries and three conversions.
Ulster travel to Youghal to play Munster next weekend, with last year's winners looking to bounce back after losing 13-8 to Leinster at Wexford Wanderers RFC.
Leinster scored all of their points in the opening half, making a confident start thanks to an early penalty from Monkstown out-half Bill Duggan.
The first round tie at Park Lane was a forwards-dominated affair, but the hosts showed the ability of their backs when they struck for a well crafted try in the eighth minute.
They moved the ball at pace as they stretched the Munster defence and Arklow winger Joni Butterworth got over in the corner. The difficult wind foiled Duggan's conversion attempt.
Territory was shared for much of the first half, but Leinster managed to add to their tally as half-time approached.
Munster spilt possession in their 22 and Coolmine full-back Niall O'Donoghue gobbled it up to score from close range, with his unconverted try widening the gap to 13 points.
With a strong wind behind them, Munster made immediate headway in the second half and an impressive 46th minute penalty from Old Christians' Stuart Lee got them off the mark.
Leinster missed an opportunity to respond off the kicking tee and the visitors, with back rower James Corbett standing out in the pack, closed the gap to five points after Waterpark's Eoin Duffy crossed the whitewash.
It was a deserved score after some fine phase-building and ball retention by the defending champions. However, the conversion was missed in the windy conditions and Leinster, thanks to some gritty defence late on, stood firm to record a hard-fought win.
The Blues had some star performers in the pack with Coolmine duo David Gilchrist and Geoff Mullan both prominent figures, while captain TC Campbell from Dundalk and Newbridge centre Ben Swindlehurst exerted plenty of influence behind the scrum.
The first round reversal is certainly a setback for John O'Neill's Munster side, but they have two home games to come and will relish the opportunity to run out at Youghal and Presentation Rugby Clubs over the next two Saturdays.