LEICESTER 19 ULSTER 22
Ruan Pienaar kicked 22 points as Ulster produced an amazing performance to win this crucial clash at Welford Road.
The victory secured a vital home tie at the new revamped Ravenhill against Saracens in the first weekend of April.
Ulster came through the pool stages with a 100 per cent record and take the top seeding in the quarter-finals.
Leicester dominated the first quarter and after two visits to the Ulster half had a 6-0 lead with outhalf Toby Flood landing simple penalties on four and 11 minutes.
Ulster had one good rally into Tigers territory and scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar landed a penalty from the left after Dan Cole – lucky not to be sinbinned – came in to a maul from the side with the visitors pressing for a try.
Tigers lost influential lock Jordan Crane after 19 minutes and the best chance of a scoring opportunity fell to the home side, when lock Graham Kitchener made a massive burst but Ulster scrambled well to defend.
Flood added a third penalty for a 9-3 lead on 23 minutes, but it was all Ulster for the remainder of the quarter.
Nick Williams made two traditional bursts, but the Tigers defence held firm and it was left to the boot of Pienaar to draw Ulster level with two penalties on 27 and 30 minutes.
The Ulster scrumhalf put in a testing chip lick which caught Vereniki Goneva out and Andrew Tribmle was unfortunate to see a foot just go in touch before he could get Jared Payne away.
Flood hooked a penalty after 37 minutes and with the last play of the game Ulster outhalf, Paddy Jackson, put a drop goal attempt side.
Leicester made a great start to the second half with Flood landing a penalty and then threading through a lovely grubber kick for winger Niall Morris to run on for the game’s opening try. Flood landed the touchline conversion for a 19-9 advantage.
A second Ulster resurgence began. The laid siege to the Leicester line, but 19 phases later a little knock-on by Pienaar ended the opportunity.
But he made more than amends when landing a penalty on 55 minutes and four minutes later charged down Flood’s clearance and raced in to touchdown the lose ball. Landing the touchline conversion Pienaar levelled the scores at 19-19 on the hour mark.
It was no surprise that 10 minutes later than man Pienaar put Ulster in front for the first time when landing a 52m penalty for a 22-19 lead - which they were not for surrendering.
Leicester Tigers: Matthew Tait; Niall Morris, Matt Smith, Anthony Allen, Vereniki Goneva; Toby Flood (c), Ben Youngs; Marcos Ayerza, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Ed Slater, Graham Kitchener, Jamie Gibson, Julian Salvi, Jordan Crane
Replacements: Rob Hawkins (T Youngs 68), Boris Stankovich, Fraser Balmain, Louis Deacon (Kitchener 46), Steve Mafi (Crane 19), David Mele (B Youngs 69), Owen Williams, Scott Hamilton (Tait 37)
Ulster: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johann Muller (c), Dan Tuohy, Roger Wilson, Chris Henry, Nick Williams
Replacements: Rob Herring, Tom Court (Black 55) Ricky Lutton, Iain Henderson (Tuohy 64), Robbie Diack (Williams 55), Paul Marshall, David McIlwaine, Michael Allen