It was one concerted bout of pressure at the tail-end of the second half that enabled busy scrum-half replacement Ian Porter to dive over at the posts, leaving his half-back partner James McKinney to win the game with his conversion. Not a bad way to christen the impressive new lay-out at the Belfast venue.
Leinster were most productive in the opening 10 minutes, particularly with some forward momentum in mauls. But it took a penalty from in front of the posts by new acquisition Gopperth to opening the evening’s proceedings. He looks a useful buy and will be a big asset for Leinster. The Kiwi slotted another penalty from an acute angle to give Leinster a deserved lead.
Leinster’s continuing early pressure paid dividends when Gopperth found a good touch from a penalty and the Leinster pack secured possession to drive towards the Ulster line, with flanker Dominic Ryan reeling off the maul to score, which Gopperth converted.
That finally awoke Ulster from their slumber and after the bulldozing Chris Farrell had made in-roads in the opposition half, it was from a scrum on the half-hour that saw skipper Payne crash through a number of tackles to touch down, with McKinney adding the extras.
Although Leinster had a chance for a quick reply, it was Ulster who went in at the break with a one-point advantage when number eight Williams picked-up from a five-metre scrum and crashed over, with McKinney again converting.
Anscombe made no fewer than 12 changes at the start of the second half while his opposite number O’Connor made just two. Gopperth, though, was still there and he rattled over his third and fourth penalties as Leinster led 19-14 on the hour.
In between those penalties, Ulster racked up the pressure but the nearest they came to scoring was when returning international Luke Marshall was held up over the line after a big surge in midfield.
Then came that sustained effort by Ulster in the dying throes of the game with Porter, who returned from club rugby with Banbridge last season, doing the needful.
Scorers for Ulster: Tries: Payne, Williams, Porter; Cons: McKinney 3
Leinster: Tries: Ryan Pens: Gopperth 4 Cons: Gopperth
ULSTER: P Nelson; R Scholes, J Payne (Capt), C Farrell, M Allen, J McKinney, M Heaney;
K McCall, N Annett, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, N McComb, M McComish, S Doyle, N Williams. Replacements all used: C Black, J Murphy, B Ross, A O’Connor, D Tuohy, R Diack, R Wilson, R Herring, R Lutton, I Porter, C Cochrane, L Marshall, D McIlwaine, R Andrew.
LEINSTER: D Hudson; D Fanning, B Macken, N Reid, A Boyle; J Gopperth, J Cooney; J O’Connell, A Dundon, M Moore, T Beirne, Q Roux, R Ruddock, capt, D Ryan, L Auva’a.
Replacements used: J Tracy, J McGrath, M Bent, T Furlong, B Marshall, J Murphy, D Leavy, L McGrath, C O’Shea, A Byrne,
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (IRFU).