Ulster 27 Leinster 19
Ulster beat Leinster for the first time since October 2009 to extend their unbeaten run in the RaboDirect Pro12 and consolidate their place at the top where they still head the Scarlets by nine points.
The hosts put their Heineken Cup loss to Northampton behind them to extend their winning run in the competition to 11 successive games.
It was Ulster’s set-piece that helped lay the platform that brought only the sixth victory over Leinster since 1995. John Afao, Rory Best and particularly Tom Court were outstanding as they tortured their opposite numbers.
It was their work that garnered the first try, which was backed up by tries from Nick Williams and Andrew Trimble, with the immaculate Ruan Pienaar converting all three and chipping in with a penalty.
Leinster found great difficulty breaching a tenacious Ulster defence, with fly-half Ian Madigan knocking over four penalties and converting a late Fergus McFadden try.
Both packs flexed their muscles in the opening 10 minutes as they attempted to gain a foothold. Having been outsmarted at the breakdown last week against the Saints, Ulster showed that it was only a temporary glitch as they turned over Leinster twice in as many minutes.
However, it was Leinster who first troubled the scorers with Ian Madigan rifling over a wide-angled penalty after Ulster were pinged at a scrum.
Leinster, happy to keep the ball in hand, squeezed out another penalty in the 19th minute with Nick Williams failing to roll away after a tackle and Madigan, from the same sot as before, split the uprights.
A great lineout take by Robbie Diack and drive by his pack was rewarded with a penalty in the 22nd minute, but for the second time Jackson pulled his kick wide of the left-hand upright.
Jackson, hoping to wipe away the memory of last season’s European final nightmare, restored his own confidence with a well-struck effort three minutes later.
Successive scrums saw Ulster put Leinster in reverse and they garnered a another penalty with Pienaar rifling over a 45m effort.
However, Leinster, as they have proved time and again, once they get into the red zone they come away with something and with Ulster penalised again Madigan obliged from in front of the posts.
The game was moving along quietly until Williams raised the tempo as he batted away Leinster skipper Leo Cullen on one of his barn-storming runs. It put Ulster on the front foot and when Craig Gilroy’s kick through was carried over, Ulster’s scrum again proved decisive as Leinster again buckled.
Referee George Clancy ran behind the posts for a penalty try with Pienaar adding the extras to give Ulster the advantage at the break.
The lead was reduced to one point immediately on the restart with Madigan firing over his fourth penalty from in front of the posts.
Ulster, however, hustled their second try almost immediately.
A Gordon D’Arcy pass was picked off by Trimble and after the forwards battered the Leinster line, it was strong man Williams who forced his way over the line for a try rubber-stamped by the TMO.
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt ran his bench around the hour mark in order to get a little stability up front, but the Ulster scrum did the damage again in the 63rd minute — this time, however, Pienaar’s effort drifted wide.
The game was on a knife-edge after referee Clancy yellow-carded a very annoyed Best for not rolling away.
Madigan though, missed his first shot at goal from the ensuing penalty. It was a costly miss.
It was 14-man Ulster who put the game out of the visitors’ reach with Pienaar executing a pin-point cross-field kick into the grateful arms of Trimble, who wandered over.
Leinster still had enough to score their first try of the night with two minutes left, Fergus McFadden touching down, but still fell short of a losing bonus point as Ulster grabbed the plaudits.
Scorers for Ulster: Tries: Penalty, Williams, Trimble. Cons: Pienaar 3. Pens: Jackson, Pienaar.
Scorers for Leinster: Try: McFadden. Con: Madigan. Pens: Madigan 4.
ULSTER: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave (D’Arcy, 59), L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson (Marshall, 66), R Pienaar; T Court (Black, 78), R Best (Herring, 79) J Afoa; I Henderson (O’Connor, 78), N McComb; R Diack (Herring, 71), C Henry (capt) N Williams (Wilson, 69).
LEINSTER: N Reid (Goodman, 53); A Conway, B Macken, G D’Arcy, F McFadden; I Madigan, E Reddan (Boss, 57); C Healy (van der Merwe, 53), S Cronin, M Bent (Hagen, 57); L Cullen (capt) (Denton, 53), D Toner; K McLaughlin (Ruddock, 40), S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
Referee: G Clancy (IRFU).
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