There has been a complete turnabout in Ulster’s performances in the last month to come away with a 19-12 win over Munster. Key to this has been key players like Marty Moore again giving everything for 55mins and Jordi Murphy playing the full game. Nick Timoney came on in the 59minute when the game was still in the balance and produced a huge defensive effort. Thankfully Darren Sweetnam wasn’t hurt in a dangerous high tackle early on, he immediately bounced back and always looked threatening on the ball. Darren O’Shea played the full game in the second row and goes about his business with unassuming purpose. Fineen Wycherley doesn’t look out of place in the back-row after playing much of his rugby in the second row. It was great to see the dynamic Conor Oliver get valuable game time for 56 minutes. Bill Johnston came on in the 56 minute and slotted a 65th minute penalty but more importantly stood up to score a pressure penalty to ensure Munster got a losing bonus point on the road in the 80th minute
Connacht will be disappointed to only take losing bonus points from this game, going down 33-29 to Leinster. Darragh Leader scored the opening try of the game for Connacht & his presence at full back is gaining importance with every game. Eoghan Masterson came on in the final quarter and added some energy to a tiring Connacht back-row. It was Caelan Doris who was the key man for Leinster’s opening try, with a stunning linebreak which set- up the try. Rhys Ruddock the captain for the day again produced fine 80mins and was vital when the pressure came on. It was great to see Bryan Byrne get more valuable game time. Ross Molony came on in the 48th minute and he adds another element of leadership to the group. Noel Reid was introduced on the 48th minute to try and bring some spark to the Leinster attack. However it was the influential replacement Andrew Porter (41min) who scored at the death and after 41 phases of play and a great team try for Leinster to snatch the win.
Peter Lydon was a key man in Ealing Trailfinders 19-14 win over Jersey Reds. He scored a brilliant try on the 69th minute, where he demanded the ball in the centre of the pitch, faded on the outside of the player to then step back inside and go under the posts. He also slotted two conversions. Jerry Sexton as always continued to drive Jersey Reds on and provided a huge shift in the final ten minutes looking for the win. Mark Flanagan played the full game for Bedford Blues in the 27-11 win over Richmond, he was a menace in the lineouts in attack and defence. Tadgh McElroy came on and always adds to the game with his set-piece work and dynamism.
Richie Sadlier was on analysis duty for RTE’s coverage of the FIFA Club World Cup Finals. Fiona Coghlan was involved in The Great RTE Christmas Sports Quiz on Saturday Sport.
Darragh Maloney was again on duty again as MC maestro for the Irish Independent Sports Awards.