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Blues cruise to hat-trick

Leinster 27

Ulster 5

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Ulster' Stuart McCloskey is tackled by Leinster's Robbie Henshaw and Ross Byrne during the Guinness Pro14 final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA Photo

Ulster' Stuart McCloskey is tackled by Leinster's Robbie Henshaw and Ross Byrne during the Guinness Pro14 final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA Photo

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Rob Kearney, left, and Fergus McFadden, right, of Leinster lift the PRO14 trophy alongside their team-mates after the Guinness PRO14 Final match between Leinster and Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rob Kearney, left, and Fergus McFadden, right, of Leinster lift the PRO14 trophy alongside their team-mates after the Guinness PRO14 Final match between Leinster and Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Sportsfile

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Ulster' Stuart McCloskey is tackled by Leinster's Robbie Henshaw and Ross Byrne during the Guinness Pro14 final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA Photo

THERE seems little reason to remove the blue ribbons from the Guinness PRO14 trophy any more.

Leo Cullen's team's relentless and remorseless run through this competition finished with an almost inevitable third title in a row after their 25th successive victory in all competitions.

Ulster did their bit to create something of a spectacle before half-time, but Dan McFarland's men couldn't breach the blue wall despite having plenty of chances and then imploded under the pressure in a 10-minute spell after half-time.

This was an awesome display of defensive power from a team who will quickly turn their attention to the visit of an Owen Farrell-less Saracens to the same venue in a week's time.

Loose

Their lineout malfunctioned, their attack was loose but they still won by 22 points.

They shipped an early James Hume try and Ulster didn't score for 76.

With Johnny Sexton on the bench, Garry Ringrose led by example.

He's not the biggest man in the Leinster backline, but he hits ferociously hard and he set the tone.

Blindside flanker Caelan Doris was more often than not right behind him with another brilliantly powerful effort.

Funnily enough, their night began with a poor defensive moment.

Jack Conan's poor knock-on handed the men in white a chance to attack in Leinster territory and centre Hume skinned Ronan Kelleher on the outside before beating James Lowe and riding Hugo Keenan's tackle to score.

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James Hume, left, and Ian Madigan of Ulster after the Guinness PRO14 Final match between Leinster and Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

James Hume, left, and Ian Madigan of Ulster after the Guinness PRO14 Final match between Leinster and Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

James Hume, left, and Ian Madigan of Ulster after the Guinness PRO14 Final match between Leinster and Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Billy Burns couldn't add the extras and the champions decided to test the Ulster mettle.

Doris got the ball rolling with a big pick and go and Conan, Robbie Henshaw and Cian Healy followed his lead with Ross Byrne popping up with some big moments before Jamison Gibson-Park found James Lowe wide and he skipped over to level matters.

The Leinster lineout was struggling, but a big defensive combination from Ringrose in the tackle and the brilliant Doris on the deck allowed them move into position.

They went twice to Conan at the front and earning penalties before Ulster coughed up three points under the posts and Byrne made it 10-5.

John Andrew handed Leinster another chance to attack, but a third lineout malfunction turned the tide and when Conan was caught on the wrong side of a ruck Ulster who moved into position but they couldn't make it count as Andrew Porter forced a penalty on the deck.

Healy conceded a penalty just before Doris stole Ulster's ball and the out-half again went to the corner but another big defensive set ended when Hume couldn't hold a poor Burns' pass.

Leinster went in five points up at the break.

Byrne stretched it to eight after buying a penalty with a brilliant dummy that fooled Sean Reidy into an off-the-ball tackle on Ringrose.

Feeling the need to push things, Burns threw a wild pass into midfield and Henshaw stepped in to pick him off and race home for a game-settling score.

McFarland must have had one eye on Toulouse, because he instantly whipped off a quartet of his pack.

A rare wild moment from Ringrose almost handed Ulster a way back in, but Rob Lyttle couldn't hold the wayward pass, while Ulster repelled.

Whatever doubt was left was removed when Doris crashed over with seven minutes remaining to complete the scoring.

Leinster: J Larmour; H Keenan, G Ringrose (capt) (R O'Loughlin 68), J Lowe; R Byrne (J Sexton 60); J Gibson-Park (L McGrath 60); C Healy (E Byrne 53), R Kelleher (J Tracy 60), A Porter (M Bent 64); D Toner, J Ryan (S Fardy 64); C Doris, J van der Flier (W Connors 73), J Conan

Ulster: M Lowry; R Lyttle, J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns (I Madigan 55), A Mathewson (J Cooney 49); E O'Sullivan (J McGrath 49), R Herring (J Andrew 21-35, 73), T O'Toole (M Moore 56); A O'Connor, I Henderson (capt) (S Carter 49); M Rea (J Murphy 56), S Reidy, M Coetzee (N Timoney 49)

Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)

Irish Independent