Leinster retained the McGee Memorial Cup and picked up their sixth Junior Interprovincial title with a 28-20 win at home to Ulster in Dundalk. The four-try performance was enough to see them overtake Ulster in the table, with Connacht finishing second after defeating Ulster 29-21 at Creggs RFC.
The title race was delicately poised heading into round 3 with Ulster on seven points ahead of Leinster, Munster and Connacht on six points apiece. Ulster struck first in Dundalk with a penalty from Lee Steenson but the first try went to the home side as the dancing feet of Rugby League international Mikey Russell teed up Matt Stapleton to score.
Ulster retook the lead when Michael Kirk charged for the line and recycled for Matthew Coulter to get over. Leinster responded through Hugh Gowig’s try but Ulster combined power and pace to breach once more as Johnny Hyndam went in.
Lee Steenson’s conversion attempt went wide meaning Leinster held their lead and the defending champions were ahead 21-13 at half time as Alejandro Laforga sniped home from the base of a ruck.
The lead was pegged back to 21-20 when Joel McBride dived on a loose ball in the in-goal area and Steenson made his first successful conversion. No home team had yet to register a win in the 2019 series, but Leinster had the fire power to kick on and score a fourth try. Jake McDonald’s kicking was also crucial and the Kilkenny out-half maintained a 100% success rate when club mate Padraig Mahon darted over late in the second half.
“The lads dug deep,” said winning captain and former Ireland Club International Kieran O’Gorman. “At training all week, we were just focused on improving our D, improving our attack and getting our attitude right. That was a tough Ulster side we played today but to do back-to-back was brilliant again. We’re absolutely delighted.”
The standard of junior rugby is phenomenal. Myself and a few of the lads who’ve played AIL didn’t expect it to be as good as it was but it’s absolutely phenomenal. We’ve 30 lads here that were lucky enough to be selected. The standard is so high. We drove standards in training. The skill level is unbelievable.
“Junior Rugby is phenomenal. It’s the backbone of rugby. It’s local. It’s small towns, local clubs and local players. It’s just brilliant and to get rewarded wearing a Leinster jersey is even better.
Leinster: Matt Stapleton (Clondalkin), Corey Carty (Wexford), Mikey Russell (Clondalkin), Adam Brodigan (Boyne), Padraig Mahon (Kilkenny), Jake McDonald (Kilkenny), Alejandro Laforga (DLSP), John Grey (Dundalk), Robin Foot (Portlaoise), Robert Farrell (Dundalk), Ronan Costello (DLSP), Wes Carter (Kilkenny), Conor Hurley (Ashbourne), Kieran O’Gorman (Longford) (capt), Tom Satchwell (North Kildare).
Replacements: Ian O’Rahelly (Newbridge), Cathal Bannon (Monkstown), Daniel Lambe (Cill Dara), Luke Roche (Wexford), JJ McIlwrath (Cill Dara), Gavin Kennedy (Ashbourne), Hugh Gowig (Monkstown), Robbie Waters (North Kildare).
Ulster: Johnny Hyndman (Ballymoney), Michael Kirk (Ballyclare), Joel McBride (Ballyclare), Robbie Reid (Ballyclare), Tom Caesar (Portadown), Paul Armstrong (Clogher Valley), Lee Steenson (Dromore), Gavin Warrington (Enniskillen), Matthew Coulter (Ballyclare), Gareth Beatty (Enniskillen), Ross Bingham (Dromore), Cory Tipping (CIYMS) (capt), Ben Heath (Dromore), Jordan Taylor (Portadown), Connor McKee (Grosvenor).
Replacements: Alan Whitley (Carrickfergus), Paul Greenaway (Carrickfergus), Gary Hume (Randalstown), Ryan Gibson (Carrickfergus), Stuart Simpson (Limavady) Connor Cambridge (Carrickfergus), Andrew Rutledge (Dromore), Owen Kirk (Ballyclare).
Match Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Matt Stapleton, Hugh Gowig, Alejandro Laforga, Padraig Mahon; Cons: Jake McDonald 4.
Ulster: Tries: Matthew Coulter, Johnny Hyndman, Joel McBride Con: Lee Steenson; Pen: Lee Steenson.
HT: Leinster 21 Ulster 13
JUNIOR INTERPROVINCIAL SERIES 2019
Saturday 27 April 2019
CONNACHT 20 ULSTER 34, Castlebar RFC
MUNSTER 13 LEINSTER 19, Skibbereen RFC
Saturday 4 May 2019
LEINSTER 31 CONNACHT 33, Wicklow RFC
ULSTER 31 MUNSTER 33, Ballyclare RFC
Saturday 11 May 2019
CONNACHT 29 MUNSTER 21, Creggs RFC
LEINSTER 28 ULSTER 20, Dundalk RFC