Stockdale and Murphy injuries add to Ulster woes
ULSTER 10-28 LEINSTER
Ciaran Frawley and Will Connors were the star performers for Leinster but the losses are racking up for hapless Ulster.
After a week disrupted by a number of positive Covid-19 results in their academy, Ulster were eagerly looking forward to the distraction a game against unbeaten Leinster would provide. Unfortunately for the northern province, they could not stop the Blues juggernaut and had Jacob Stockdale and Jordi Murphy limp off.
Ulster had not beaten Leinster in Dublin since 1989 and even though this was classed as a 'home' game, it played out on the league champions' second home, at the Aviva Stadium.
Dan McFarland's side lost against Connacht, last Sunday, and were second best for long periods against Leinster. They trailed 16-0 at one stage but a second half try from Rob Herring and five points from the boot of John Cooney put them within a converted try of snatching an unlikely victory.
As Cooney was converting that Herring try, however, Jacob Stockdale was limping from the field of play. Replaced by Louis Ludik, the Ulster fullback looked in some discomfort and must now be listed as a doubt for next Saturday's Guinness PRO14 semi-final against Edinburgh.
Ulster also lost Jordi Murphy with 15 minutes to go after he shipped a big hit in defence. The former Leinster flanker looked dazed after being helped back to his feet and his condition will be monitored closely over the coming days. With Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune and captain Iain Henderson already out, injured, losing Stockdale and Murphy would be seismic blows.
Leinster looked to have sealed victory when two of their substitutes combined, on 73 minutes, to craft a wonderful score. Harry Byrne found the steaming Scott Penny out wide and the back-row gathered the bouncing ball and held off Ludik's tackle to make it 21-10.
Scott Penny scores after a beauty of a kick from Harry Byrne 🙌pic.twitter.com/0xUzK448ac
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) August 29, 2020
Frawley missed the conversion and it looked as though it could make for a dicey finish when John Cooney intercepted a pass meant for Rhys Ruddock and raced 75 metres to score. There were question marks over whether the Ulster scrum-half was offside and TMO replays proved that was the case. The five-pointer was chalked off, and worse was to follow.
From the resulting penalty, Leinster kicked for an attacking lineout, won it and thundered forward for the exclamation point on their win. It duly arrived when Harry Byrne took a pass at full pelt and whomped Ulster lock Sam Carter over his own tryline to get the score.
Following the game, McFarland said he was not able to provide any clear updates on Stockdale and Murphy. McFarland says he is 'pretty hopeful' that Stockdale would be okay for next weekend as he took 'a couple of bangs' to the lower leg. There were no pulls or strains for the 24-year-old.
The Ulster head coach said his side 'couldn't get out of our own way with errors and by giving away silly penalties'. "We're not where we want to be at, right now," he added, "but we've got a semi-final to play and we're one of only four sides in the league there."
OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: Ciaran Frawley (Leinster)