ULSTER SECURED A home Heineken Cup quarter final as Ruan Pienaar sprinkled some individual class on a determined team effort at Welford Road. The South African contributed all of his team’s points in a 22-19 away win.
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe remarked before kick-off that it did not matter if other teams struggled sat Leicester ‘it’s what we do here’. Tigers started strongly however and, with the visiting scrum creaking, went 6-0 up through Toby Flood. Pienaar got Ulster off the mark on 15 minutes but the home side responded.
Jared Payne was required to put in a hefty tackle on charging Tigers lock Graham Kitchener to prevent a try but Tigers camped in the Ulster 22 and stretched their lead through the boot of Flood. Ulster’s lineout maul was their one source of unadulterated joy in the first-half two Pienaar penalties, and a Flood miss, left it 9-9 at the break.
Nick Williams of Ulster crashes into Leicester’s Marcos Ayerza. INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Fosker
The opening 10 minutes of the second-half belonged to Leicester as Top 14-bound Flood slotted over a penalty and then opened up the Ulster defence with a great grubber. Payne was caught out of position and former Leinster winger Niall Morris outpaced Paddy Jackson to dive over. Flood’s conversion made it 19-12 after 50 minutes.
Ulster refused to panic but brought on Tom Court and [blood sub] Robbie Diack before patiently building phases. Tom Youngs held on in the tackle and Pienaar reduced the arrears. Worse was to follow for the home side as Pienaar sprinted up from the Ulster defensive line to charge down a Flood clearance, inside his 22, and dive on the loose ball. He converted his opportune score to level matters.
The final score of the game arrived courtesy of Pienaar’s boot as he snuck a penalty inside the lefthand post from all of 55 metres out. Referee Nigel Owens called play back, with four minutes on the clock, for a Luke Marshall kick was harshly judged to have bounced out in-goal. Ulster looked home and hosed when they won that defensive scrum but play rolled deep into stoppage time after the home side were awarded a scrum of their own with the clock on 79:58.
The Ulster defence held firm again as Morris was bundled over the touchline. Ravenhill awaits for the victors with Saracens, who thrashed Connacht earlier today, the likely opponents.
Penalties: Flood (4)
Penalties: Pienaar (5)
Leicester Tigers: M Tait (S Hamilton); N Morris, A Allen (O Williams), V Goneva; T Flood, B Youngs (D Mele): M Ayerza, T Youngs (R Hawkins), D Cole; E Slater, G Kitchener (L Deacon); J Gibson, J Salvi, J Crane (S Mafi).
Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black (T Court), R Best, J Afoa; J Muller (c), D Tuohy (I Henderson); R Wilson, C Henry, N Williams (R Diack).