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01st Apr 2023

Ryan Baird goes full beast mode as Leinster see off dogged Ulster

Patrick McCarry

Ryan Baird

LEINSTER 30-15 ULSTER

Ryan Baird continued his superb form out of the back-end of the Six Nations and starred at blindside for a Leinster side that reached the last eight of the Champions Cup.

Ross Byrne, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Jimmy O’Brien and the entire starting Leinster front row had fine games, against a dogged Ulster side, but Baird was the stand-out.

The 23-year-old, who impressed as lock in three Six Nations outings, was given the No.6 jersey in a back row with Josh van der Flier and Conan. He crashed over for the first try of a soaking wet night, with a little shoving help from Tadhg Furlong:

Ryan Baird on the rampage

Still bubbling after that try, Ryan Baird stalked after Ulster fullback Mike Lowry and took him down at full gallop. He almost snatched a turnover out of it, but would not be denied later.

Baird played the full 80, making 10 big carries and sticking 10 tackles, as well as winning two turnovers for a Leinster side that had some sloppy moments on a ragged night in Dublin. The persistent ran only slowed to a drizzle in the final quarter, by which stage Ulster had lost their puff after swinging hard for a good hour.

Dan McFarland’s side responded to that Baird try with a bold score of their own, through James Hume, which Jacob Stockdale had a couple of gasp-inducing aerial takes. Duane Vermeulen was putting in some big shots and Ulster’s defence kept them in the contest. Ross Byrne settled for two penalties and Leinster led 16-8 at the break.

Ryan BairdJimmy O’Brien of Leinster is tackled by Stuart McCloskey of Ulster during the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16, at Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile)

Leinster grind Ulster down

The scoreline remained at 16-8 for the first 10 minutes of the second half before Leinster quickly made hay when James Hume – harsh on him but a fair call against Ulster after persistent infringements – was yellow carded.

Stockdale had been enjoying a decent outing and his eyes lit up when a Robbie Henshaw pass missed Ross Byrne and skidded off the surface. Up he rushed but Jamison Gibson-Park beat him to it, slipped away from his grasping arms and coasted through for a try.

Ulster responded with an attacking-maul-off-lineout try that is almost their trade-mark.

Leinster were not done yet, though. They piled forward again, won a big scrum penalty, got another inside the Ulster 22 and kicked for an attacking lineout. Ulster had repelled them in the red-zone for much of the night but, wilting as the Leinster grind continued, they could not keep Andrew Porter out.

That try was scored in the 62nd minute but it was effectively game over. Both sides went through the motions and may yet meet again in the URC knock-out stages. For another season, though, Ulster’s Champions Cup dreams are over while Leinster eye the final in Dublin this May.

Our Man of the Match: Ryan Baird (Leinster)

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