Leinster completed a hat trick of Guinness PRO14 derby wins over the festive period as they hammered Ulster 38-7 at the RDS.
Man-of-the-match Jordan Larmour jinked through for the opening try and set up Barry Daly’s second, as wind-backed Leinster took a 12-0 lead into the interval.
The confidence gained from Ulster’s monumental comeback victory over Munster ebbed away as a Fergus McFadden brace secured Leinster’s bonus point by the 51st minute, and 20-year-old star-in-the-making Larmour and Jonathan Sexton touched down in the final quarter either side of Jacob Stockdale’s consolation score.
Despite some positive early signs for Ulster in the form of a scrum penalty and a strong run from Charles Piutau, they fell behind in the fifth minute. McFadden’s break, via Ross Byrne’s short pass, exposed the defence and the supporting Larmour stepped inside Stockdale to score by the posts.
Byrne converted and the hosts went 12-0 up on the quarter-hour mark, Ulster surviving a bout of scrum pressure before Leinster twice attacked out wide and Daly used Larmour’s well-timed pass to hand off Piutau and cross in the left corner.
The visitors, who had captain Rory Best back for the first time in a month, failed to profit from a break by teenage scrum half Jonny Stewart, who linked well with Stockdale, and they were also turned over at a promising maul.
The wind became more of a factor as Ulster struggled to get out of their own half, however Stockdale was a whisker away from intercepting a Byrne pass and bursting clear for a try against the run of play.
A Robbie Henshaw ruck offence allowed Ulster to threaten from a lineout in Leinster’s 22, but just when they had the home defence stretched, Piutau and Sean Reidy could not get the ball to the waiting Stockdale.
Iain Henderson did brilliantly to deny Larmour a try on the stroke of half-time, as Byrne dangled a kick through. The lightning-quick fullback, who could been on the cusp of a Six Nations call-up, missed out on another try on the resumption after Jamison Gibson-Park was ruled offside from the youngster’s kick.
Nonetheless, there was no stopping McFadden soon after as he sliced past Stockdale and evaded Best’s despairing tackle to go over from the right wing with Byrne converting.
James Tracy and Tadhg Furlong both had early departures through injury, but their replacements Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter both impressed when introduced. The latter used turnover ball to swat away Darren Cave and Stockdale and Gibson-Park’s final pass put McFadden clear from halfway for the bonus-point score.
Good hands from replacement half-backs Nick McCarthy and Sexton, coupled with a terrific mid-air pass from Henshaw, sent Larmour over in the left corner.
Stockdale finally opened Ulster’s account from Johnny McPhillips’ overhead pass, but Sexton had the final say in the 81st minute, going over unopposed after another Ulster turnover and some deft touches by Jordi Murphy, Noel Reid and Max Deegan.