The Leinster Junior squad brought great pride to the province when they retained the IRFU Junior Interprovincial Championship title on Saturday with a 39-17 victory over Ulster at Tullamore RFC.
2008/09 IRFU JUNIOR INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, May 9
ROUND 3 RESULTS –
Leinster 39 Ulster 17, Tullamore RFC
Connacht 8 Munster 3, Corrib RFC
Three of the provinces – defending champions Leinster and Connacht and Ulster – were still in with a chance of lifting the trophy ahead of the third and final round of matches in this season’s Junior Interpros.
But Leinster reigned supreme once again thanks to their third straight win in the competition, a 39-17 triumph over a gallant Ulster side at Navan RFC.
The real damage was done in the opening 13 minuteas as three tries – two of them converted – saw the hosts power into a 19-0 lead. The Leinster backs were really on fire.
It was 20 minutes before Ulster gathered their composure and after a conserted period of forward pressure, Coleraine clubman Steven Dickey touched down for Ulster’s first try.
This was the only solace for Ulster before half-time, as Leinster scored two further tries and kicked a penalty, leaving the score at 32-5 in their favour at the break.
Although Johnny Keith received a yellow card, Ulster had territorial advantage in the second half and scored two tries from Josh Lewis and James Morton, one of which was converted by Mark O’Connor, to salvage some pride.
Champions Leinster used 31 representatives from 14 different clubs during the 2008/09 campaign, which is a significant testament to the players on how well they gelled together in such a short space of time.
The province’s five selectors – David Coughlan, Mick Clavin, Trevor Wardrop, Bill Douglas and Ger McDonald – had some vital insight and input into this fresh Leinster set-up.
Leinster’s management team, which remained in situ from 2008, compiled of John Burns (head coach), Rian Vorster (assistant coach), Vinnie Wyers (fitness coach), Noel Ferguson (technical assistant), Stephen Smyth (physio), Paul Flanigan (doctor) and manager Karl O’Neill.
The victorious Leinster players deserved great credit for the time and commitment they gave over the three-week period for training sessions and matches, many of them taking time off work to get to training.
Meanwhile, a much-improved Connacht side secured second place in the table with a gritty 8-3 win over Munster at Corrib RFC in Headford.
It was the westerners’ second win in this season’s competition and but for the leaking of a last-minute try to Leinster in their second game, Connacht would have been lifting the trophy for the first time in their history.
Even still, this is Connacht’s best ever result in the Junior Interpro series and the fact that the victories over Ulster and Munster were achieved on home soil made it all the sweeter.
A feature of Connacht’s play in this campaign has been their back-line play and winger Kevin Corcoran showed this to good effect after eight minutes when he finished off a great passing movement to score in the corner and give Connacht a 5-0 lead.
Paul Cody just failed with the touchline conversion but he made no mistake a few minutes latter when he slotted home a penalty from 40 metres to leave the home side 8-0 ahead while playing with a strong breeze.
Despite further pressure during the half, Connacht failed to score again and turned to face into the wind and a resurgent Munster in the second half.
But the hosts took whatever Munster had to throw at them in the second half and gave it back with some interest.
The home forwards led by Enda Murphy, Liam Scahill, Willie Parker, Alan Bane and Tom Toolan scrummaged, rucked and tackled to great effect, while backs Kevin Higgins, Ger O’Connor and Mike Murphy cleared their lines and set up counter attacks to ease the pressure.
The exchanges were uncompromising on occasion and resulted in Munster’s Stephen Ryan and Connacht pair Willie Paker and Martin Lee spending time in the sin-bin.
Munster were awarded some kickable penalties but despite trying three different kickers they were only able to convert one of them midway through Eamon Ronan to leave the score at 8-3.
The last few minutes saw Munster pounding at the Connacht line searching for the winning try, but the men from the west were in no mood to cough up what was a well-deserved victory.