Cave scuttled in for his first hat-trick of tries for his province as Ulster buried the demons of last week’s eight-try record hammering in Europe against Toulon. Leicester had travelled to a city where they have never won harbouring hopes of reaching the quarter-finals. But they again left empty handed as tries from Cave and winger Craig Gilroy proved their undoing.
Ulster led 12-0 at the break with Cave’s first two touchdowns and were 26-0 ahead with 30 minutes to go. Leicester finally woke up on the hour, and threatened to over-run Ulster who at one stage were down to 13 men with Callum Black and Wiehehn Herbst in the bin in the last quarter. But a superb defensive performance, particularly the fast first-up tackling, meant there was no way through for the visitors.
“We knew it was a dead rubber as far as Europe was concerned,” said Cave. “But we also knew we had to step up to the plate after last week. It was a matter of pride and playing for the home crowd. The beating we took last week was one thing, but when we looked back at the game, we were not that bad defensively. There were so many positives to take into the game.
“Any team can get up for a massive game, but can you get up for a game that all you are playing for is your shirt. Well, we certainly did that.”
Head coach Neil Doak, who came in for some flak after last week’s trouncing, was in jubilant mood. “The boys were outstanding in everything they did. Defensively we put everything on the line, and even when we went down to 13 men we were still fighting tooth and nail. As a coach I was massively proud and showed what this Ulster team is all about. We have to make sure that we now take that (passion) into the league.”
The first quarter was fairly even until Cave scored his first try in the 19th minute and then importantly followed that up with his second near half-time. But it was the opening 10 minutes of the second half that saw Ulster get a stranglehold in the game with Cave’s third and then Gilroy’s effort which was scored virtually from the re-start. Leicester finally got their system going and winger Andrew Thompstone was in to make the score 26-7 in the 54th minute. From then on in, it was an Ulster rearguard that the Tigers frustratingly just couldn’t pierce which left the province avoiding last place in Pool 3.
ULSTER: J Payne, T Bowe, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy, I Humphreys, R Pienaar; C Black (Warwick, 65), R Best (c) (Herring, 74), W Herbst (Ross, 74), A O’Connor (Stevenson, 65), F Van der Merwe, I Henderson (McComb,59), M McComish (Ross, 45), R Wilson.
LEICESTER TIGERS : M Tait, A Thompstone (Morris, 65) , V Goneva, S Bai, M Benjamin, F Burns, B Youngs (c) (Harrison, 55); M Ayerza, T Youngs (Ghiraldini, 55), L Mulipola (Balmain, 55), G Kitchener, G Parling (Chaves, 5) T Croft, J Salvi, J Crane (Barberi, 55).
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France).