ULSTER CAPTAIN JOHANN MULLER heaped praise on fellow South African Ruan Pienaar after he guided the province to a home quarter final against Saracens.
The scrum-half kicked 17 points and added an opportunistic try in Ulster’s 22-19 win at Welford Road. The victory ensures 100% Ulster are now the top seeds and will face the team that eliminated them at the quarter final stage, at Twickenham, last season.
“It is a great result for us,” said Muller. “This is not an easy place to come and we gave it a good show. We knew what we had to do when we went 10 points down. We had a little bit of luck with Ruan Pienaar’s charge down which got them back in the game.”
Muller added, “We showed good character. Pienaar scored all our points and seems to every week. He was just outstanding and was kicking goals from his own half which gave us added confidence. Welford Road is a great place with a great atmosphere. They had unbelievable support and that really got our juices flowing. We’ve achieved nothing yet though.”
Pienaar knocks over one of his five penalties. INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Fosker
Pienaar, speaking to Sky Sports after the game, agreed with his captain about how difficult it was to defeat Tigers. “I think the forwards played outstandingly well. We controlled the game pretty well, with our kicking, and it was a massive team effort. Hats off to everyone… it wasn’t pretty at the end but we managed to get the result,” he said.
The Ulster defence was immense in the final 30 minutes as they held out waves of Leicester attacks. In total, Mark Anscombe’s men made 139 defensive tackles with openside Chris Henry leading the tackle count at 23. The visiting scrum was creaking in the first half but the introduction of Tom Court helped. Discipline was key, too, as Toby Flood was not given the chance to level affairs with the boot in the closing stages.
Pienaar commented, “That was a massive focus for us going into this weekend — our defence. We weren’t too great against Montpellier last week so we had to make a massive step-up again.”
Speaking about his charge down on Flood for the crucial 58th minute try, Pienaar said, “It’s something I like to do to put pressure on the opposition kickers. You don’t always get to them but, thankfully, I got to that. The ball slowed down before the [Leicester] dead goal line and I managed to get it down. Very blessed about that one.”
Many Ulster supporters would say the same about having Pienaar in their team.
Like rugby? Follow TheScore.ie’s dedicated Twitter account @rugby_ie >