School of hard knocks: Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip get to grips with Ulster's Ian Whitten during Leinster's Magners League victory at the RDS yesterday evening

YOU wouldn't quite have called this another routine home success for Leinster, but at the moment, any side that tries its luck at the RDS without a full complement is as good as doomed to failure and an understrength Ulster knew their place in the end. The fact that Brian McLaughlin decided to pitch up minus a number of high-profile players such as Stephen Ferris, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble and Tom Court came as a pretty clear indication that this game wasn't necessarily targeted by Ulster as one they had to win.

With CJ van der Linde recovering from a calf injury, Stan Wright's inclusion at tight head and Malcolm O'Kelly coming in for Nathan Hines were the only changes from the Heineken Cup demolition of the Scarlets.

Perhaps that sub-conscious knowledge that expectations weren't too high was to Ulster's advantage, because they started with real belief. With Brian O'Driscoll pushing up hard in midfield in search of an early interception, Niall O'Connor frequently chose width over the bustling power of Ian Whitten, and although Shaun Berne opened the home team's account with a penalty for offside in the ninth minute, Ulster were certainly not tugging the forelock.

Rob Kearney and Wright both made inroads into the visitors' territory, but the first real try-scoring opportunity came at the other end when Simon Danielli exposed some slack Seán O'Brien defending off a line-out. It looked for a moment like the Scotland wing might go all the way as he arced around Shane Horgan, however, Eoin Reddan did well to get back.

Ulster then got what their positive approach deserved just after the half-hour mark when O'Connor, who had pulled his first penalty attempt wide, struck the second on the money after substitute, Mike Ross, had strayed offside at a ruck.

Ross has had a frustrating habit this season of giving away soft penalties at the wrong time, and the way he marked his introduction for Wright was another example of his lack of discipline.

Still, Leinster were undeterred by the concession and within a minute, Kevin McLaughlin won a line-out, Gordon D'Arcy shuffled into the midfield traffic and produced a sublime offload which Rob Kearney finished with an unstoppable combination of timing and the perfect running line.

D'Arcy's assist looked a shade forward, but in mitigation, referee George Clancy was in a good position to make the call and Berne tapped over the simple conversion to make it 10-3.

If O'Connor had picked up an injury during the first half, it hadn't been apparent, so Ian Humphreys' arrival off the bench at the start of the second half was hardly a vote of confidence in his young understudy. With the jury still emphatically out on Humphreys' defensive capability, it surely wasn't a coincidence that Leinster immediately sent Horgan barrelling down the number-10 channel.

The winners quickly increased their lead when after his own towering kick, Kearney this time delivered the offload to Jamie Heaslip who surged away down the touchline for another try. If Heaslip had a real head of steam up when the rookie full-back, Jamie Smith, moved in for the tackle, it was a poor one-on-one attempt which was predictably swatted away and a couple of seconds later the number eight was celebrating.

Berne was unable to add the extras from close range, however, Leinster now clearly had the upper hand. They should have pressed home that advantage, but the line-out suffered once the woefully inaccurate Bernard Jackman came on, and instead it was Ulster who produced most of the enterprise in the final quarter with Danielli, Timosi Nagusa and sub Jonny Shiels carving open the opposition. Unable to produce the sort of decisive pass that had led to Leinster's two tries, they headed home without the losing bonus point their efforts deserved.

LEINSTER R Kearney; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; S Berne, E Reddan; C Healy, J Fogarty, S Wright, L Cullen, M O'Kelly, K McLaughlin, S O'Brien, J Heaslip Subs M Ross for Wright, 30 mins; B Jackman for Fogarty, 50 mins; F McFadden for O'Driscoll, 65 mins; D Toner for O'Kelly, 78 mins

ULSTER J Smith; T Nagusa, D Cave, I Whitten, S Danielli; N O'Connor, I Boss; B Young, N Brady, BJ Botha, E O'Donoghue, D Tuohy, TJ Anderson, W Faloon, C Henry Subs J Shiels for Cave, 26 mins; I Humphreys for O'Connor, h-t; D Fitzpatrick for Botha, 56 mins; R Caldwell for Tuohy, 66 mins; A Kyriacou for Brady, 70 mins Sin Bin TJ Anderson 19-29 mins

Referee G Clancy (Ireland)