DCSIMG

Ulster backed themselves to get the jod done at Welford Road

Luke Marshall bursts clear during the Heineken Cup Pool 5 Round 6 clash against Leicester Tigers

Luke Marshall bursts clear during the Heineken Cup Pool 5 Round 6 clash against Leicester Tigers

The talk all week ahead of the final Pool Five match at Welford Road had been about Ulster going and getting the win they needed to achieve their goal - a home quarter-final.

Mark Anscombe’s squad faced Leicester Tigers down and went on to register a 22-19 win in one of those epic games which makes the Heineken Cup the competition it is.

The reward is not only a home draw in the quarter-finals against Saracens, but also a massive opportunity to reach a second Heineken Cup final in three years with the semi-final draw giving the winners of the April 5 weekend game at Ravenhill home union advantage.

Ulster were the underdogs going to fortress Welford Road for a winner takes all group clash against a Leicester club who had only lost once at home in Europe since 2006.

Leicester had led 9-3 and 19-9 during the match, but Ulster kept hunting the Tigers and eventually put them down.

It was a victory which was grounded in self belief and confidence.

Ulster backed themselves to go and do the job, and they did.

They came into the game with a few question marks over their game, particularly at the scrum and maul.

Callum Black was given promotion to the starting line-up ahead of Irish international Tom Court and Roger Wilson was given the start in front of Robbie Diack with Nick Williams at No 8.

The latter move, as expected, worked. Williams, after a couple of early knock-ons settled in well and produced the physical challenge to Leicester he was there for.

Wilson, who had been man of the match in the 22-16 win at Ravenhill back in October, was a prominent figure.

Black, perhaps did not do himself justice.

When Court came on in the second half he certainly made a difference - but like Diack coming on, Anscombe knew he had a bench who could go finish the job if the foundations had been laid.

Leicester dominated the first quarter. They had Ulster under pressure from the kick-off and by 11 minutes had a 6-0 lead from just two visits to the Ulster half.

Ruan Pienaar kicked a penalty to keep Ulster in touch at that early stage before Flood struck again with a third penalty.

But Ulster never panicked when 9-3 down, they steadied themselves and focused.

They dominated the second quarter and Pienaar’s boot had them on level terms at the break.

When Leicester, thanks to a Flood penalty and the conversion to Niall Morris’s try, went 10 points ahead at 19-9 after 49 minutes, one did feel it was perhaps slipping away from Ulster.

But Johann Muller’s led side showed great composure and they went about their business again, putting the Tigers under pressure.

It was to tell when that man Pienaar closed down an attempted clearance by Flood and the South African had fortune on his side as the ball stayed in-goal for him to touch down.

The conversion completed, Pienaar then landed a 52m penalty with 11 minutes to go and Ulster had the lead for the first time at 22-19.

A superb rearguard from Ulster at a lineout maul and then a scrum reflected the determination they had to not slip up at the final hurdle.

It will take more of the same against Saracens in April.

 

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