Ulster and Leinster dominate Best XV of the festive Interpros
Leinster won three games from three and scored 124 points in the process, but Ulster will be pretty content with their lot too.
The six inter-provincial games played out in the Guinness PRO14 over the festive period did feature many senior Ireland internationals but it was mostly a period for up-and-comers and fringe players to make an impact. It makes for an interesting, and refreshing 'Best XV' selection.
Leinster thrashed Ulster and Connacht but will have derived as much pleasure from their 13-6 victory over Munster at Thomond Park. Right now, this squad of players (all 50+ of them) are looking eminently capable of going through the PRO14 season unbeaten.
The big pluses for Leinster were again in the back row, with Scott Penny, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Will Connors all having great games over the past few weeks and Rhys Ruddock returning against Connacht, after his two week break, and claiming the man of the match award.
Harry Byrne was named man of the match against Ulster - 10 conversions kicked and two try assists - while Ciaran Frawley got a couple of decent run-outs and Leo Cullen was allowed to go easy on his current first choice No.10, Ross Byrne. There was even a winning first start for 23-year-old scrumhalf Rowan Osborne against Munster.
Ulster claimed two bonus point wins up at Kingspan Stadium while their second stringers escaped from a try-fest against Leinster with a losing bonus point. They trailed 33-14 at half-time but finished strong to register six tries in the match and ensure a tough Monday morning review for Leinster, even though they themselves had totted up 54 points.
In compiling a 'Best XV' of the festive period, Ulster end up with the greater numbers down in large part to the fact that several of their number started the two big home wins in the space of the week.
Five Leinster forwards are in our select pack, with Connors and Deegan joined in the back row by a slightly out of position Jack O'Donoghue. The versatile O'Donoghue flies a lonely flag for the southern province after excellent outings against Connacht and Leinster, even if he could not do much to stem Ulster's tide last Friday in Belfast.
As for Dan McFarland's men, they end up with eight representatives in our XV after they lit up the defences of Connacht and Munster in consecutive weeks. Nick Timoney and Sean Reidy are unfortunate to miss out while second row trojan Alan O'Connor is also deserving of a mention.
Six of our backline is made up of Ulster players, with John Cooney rivalling Deegan and Connors for the man who gained most over the past few weeks. The scrumhalf is doing all he can to be Ireland's starting No.9 in the Guinness Six Nations.
Best XV of the Festive Interpros
15. Will Addison (Ulster)
14. Robert Baloucone (Ulster)
13. Luke Marshall (Ulster)
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster)
11. Cian Kelleher (Leinster)
10. Billy Burns (Ulster)
9. John Cooney (Ulster)
1. Jack McGrath (Ulster)
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
3. Marty Moore (Ulster)
4. Scott Fardy (Leinster)
5. Ross Molony (Leinster)
6. Jack O'Donoghue (Munster)
7. Will Connors (Leinster)
8. Max Deegan (Leinster)
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Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble look back on all the festive inter-pro action and discuss Ireland's first squad gathering under Andy Farrell.