Pro12: Leinster 22-7 Ulster
|Leinster (17) 22|
|Tries: O'Loughlin 2, L McGrath Cons: Nacewa 2 Pen: Nacewa|
|Ulster (0) 7|
|Try: Piutau Con: Pienaar|
Leinster earned a dominant win in the Pro12 Irish derby after a sloppy first-half display by under-strength Ulster.
Unlike Ulster, Leinster had most of their internationals, but uncapped Rory O'Loughlin scored two of their tries.
O'Loughlin exploited dreadful defending to score his first try and Ulster were asleep as scrum-half Luke McGrath ran in a second after a quick line-out.
Wing O'Loughlin scored his second try after half-time, and Charles Piutau's try prevented Ulster being whitewashed.
Leinster were able to punch holes in Ulster's defence at will in the first half as the visiting pack badly missed Rory Best and Iain Henderson, who were rested because of the IRFU's player management programme.
Ulster will look back on a missed chance by Tommy Bowe when they were 10-0 down midway through the first half, but the visitors' lack of line speed in defence and physicality during the crucial opening period were the key factors.
Ulster did prevent Leinster achieving a bonus point, but the home side's win still moved them above the Ospreys into second place.
Loaded Leinster back up pre-match favouritism
With Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Josh van der Flier, Sean Cronin and Garry Ringrose all back after missing Monday's 29-17 defeat by Munster, Leinster looked to have the stronger hand, and so it proved.
Ulster welcomed back Andrew Trimble after a six-week injury absence but his return never looked likely to offset the absence of Best, Henderson and fly-half Paddy Jackson.
Jackson's absence meant a switch to fly-half for Ruan Pienaar but the South African looked uncomfortable in the role during the crucial opening period, which included two penalty misses.
O'Loughlin, with remarkable ease, ran from inside his own half to score his sixth-minute try as he sped past Trimble and Paul Marshall after finding a gap between Pienaar and Stuart McCloskey.
With superb lock Hayden Triggs and the ever-industrious Jack McGrath among Leinster's energetic ball-carriers, a Nacewa penalty increased their advantage.
But Bowe wasted an immediate chance to reply as he fumbled with the line seemingly gaping following O'Brien's misfield from the kick-off.
Leinster's second try was a horror show for Ulster as Cronin's quick line-out to Jack McGrath at the front allowed the prop to set up his scrum-half namesake to score.
Trailing 17-0 at the break, it got worse for Ulster immediately after the restart as impressive fly-half Ross Byrne's grubber kick in behind a badly positioned Piutau set up O'Loughlin's second touchdown.
To Piutau's credit, he was Ulster's most impressive performer by a distance as his carry count by the end of the contest reached 15.
After wasting a series of chances to open their account - even during Jack McGrath's sin-binning - Ulster eventually did register on the scoreboard as the New Zealand star ran through in the 77th minute following a clever no-look pass from Pienaar.
What they said
Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss: "It wasn't the start we wanted. I give credit to Leinster. They ramped it up and very very clinical.
"We're disappointed but we expected nothing else from Leinster. They've been doing that to teams all year.
"We were being physical but we were being outsmarted a few times. When we got into their territory, we were not clinical enough."
Leinster wing Rory O'Loughlin: "We're disappointed not to get the bonus point seeing as we scored so early in the second half.
"We got the win and that's what we came from but there's much to improve on."
Leinster: I Nacewa (capt); A Byrne, G Ringrose, N Reid, R O'Loughlin; R Byrne, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Bent, D Toner, H Triggs, S O'Brien, J van der Flier, J Heaslip.
Replacements: R Strauss for Cronin 60, A Porter for A Byrne 57, J Loughman for Porter 65, M Kearney for Triggs 66, J Conan for O'Brien 68, J Gibson-Park for L McGrath 60, T Daly R Byrne 68, Z Kirchner for O'Loughlin 66.
Ulster: C Piutau: A Trimble, D Cave, S McCloskey, T Bowe; R Pienaar, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Herring (capt), R Ah You, K Treadwell, F van der Merwe, C Ross, S Reidy, R Wilson.
Replacements: J Andrew for Herring 28, C Black for Warwick 65, J Simpson for Ah You 48, P Browne for van der Merwe 73, C Henry for Wilson 54, B Herron for P Marshall 74, L Ludik for Trimble 59, J Stockdale for Bowe 66.
Referee: J Lacey (Ireland)