Leinster overpower Ulster
Leinster powered into the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals after seeing off a dogged Ulster Rugby side 30-15 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.
Last season’s finalists needed to work hard for victory, notching tries through Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park and Andrew Porter while Ross Byrne added 15 points from the tee.
The win sees them set up a quarter-final at home to Leicester Tigers next weekend.
Ulster were well in contention for the first hour as James Hume and Rob Herring crossed, but yellow cards for Hume and Harry Sheridan left them with too much to do over the closing stages.
Tactical kicking littered the first half amid torrential rain in Dublin and try-scoring opportunities were at a premium for the first quarter of an hour.
Ulster repelled a couple of Leinster attacks and took the lead through a penalty from scrum-half Doak, but the hosts hit back through fly-half Byrne on 11 minutes.
Leinster were unable to get their lineout shifting in the opening exchanges, but it produced their first try when it clicked on 20 minutes, lock Baird powering over from close range.
Byrne converted before dispatching a long-range penalty 10 minutes later to extend Leinster’s lead to 10 points.
Ulster responded in superb fashion, though, as fly-half Billy Burns landed a cross-field kick in the arms of cente Hume, who stepped inside to finish brilliantly.
Doak couldn’t add the extras and Ulster conceded a penalty directly from the restart, but Byrne was off target on that occasion.
The Leinster pressure built for a long spell at the end of the first half, but they could only come away with anot
Ulster’s ill-discipline began to cost them at the start of the second half and as the penalty count rose, Hume was sent to the sin bin.
Leinster would notch their second try on 53 minutes – moments after Hume was shown yellow – as scrum-half Gibson-Park picked his way over under the posts after scooping up a loose ball.
Byrne’s conversion moved Leinster into a 23-8 lead, but the 14 men of Ulster battled back as they constructed a rumbling lineout for hooker Herring to plant down, replacement scrum-half John Cooney slotting the extras.
But Leinster managed another score before Hume’s sin bin expired as prop Porter burrowed over from close range despite some heroic defence from Ulster, Byrne’s third conversion of the game restoring a 15-point gap on 63 minutes.
The game ultimately slipped away from Ulster and their hopes of an improbable late turnaround took a hit when replacement lock Harry Sheridan was yellow-carded for a high tackle with 12 minutes to play.