Leicester Tigers v Ulster: Ulster victory at Welford Road secures quarter-final place in Europe

Marcelle Coetzee takes on George Ford
Marcelle Coetzee takes on George Ford
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Leicester Tigers 13 Ulster 14

Ulster are back in the Champions Cup quarter-finals after a 14-13 win over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.

The Irish Province were well below par in the first half and the Tigers deservedly led 13-0 at the break.

But Ulster, with John Cooney brought off the bench on 49 minutes, worked their way back into the match with tries from Marty Moore and Robert Baloucoune and two Cooney conversions securing the vital win.

Ulster had to take a minimum of one match point from the Pool Four tie, but winning the game ensured they would not have to play a waiting game on any other results.

It was an erratic first quarter for both sides with Leicester having the territorial advantage but Ulster defending well.

Ulster's lineout was misfiring, three from five going awry, two of them when they did find themselves in an attacking position deep in the Leicester half.

Best chance for Leicester came when prop Dan Cole made a huge break through into the Ulster '22'. With numbers on the right the ball was moved but outhalf George Ford knocked on.

A high tackle on Will Addison saw another penalty put to touch, but for the third time Ulster failed to secure their ball.

The deadlock was eventually broken after 31 minutes, Ulster going off their feet and Tigers outhalf Ford goaling the resulting penalty for a 3-0 lead.

Ulster did finally spark a little more, Stuart McCloskey making a break past Ford, but his pass to Dave Shanahan saw the scrumhalf tackled and ball was turned over.

The Irish Province lost key backrow player Marcelle Coetzee (knee injury) on 35 minutes, Nick Timoney coming in.

Handling errors continued to thwart both sides, Leicester this time guilty of a dropped ball - by the interval each side had six handling errors.

Right on the half-time whistle there was to be no mistake from the English side, Ford's grubber kick through followed up by centre Matt Toomua for a lovely try. Ford added the extras and the Tigers were 10-0 ahead.

Back at Welford Road for the second half, Leicester went 13-0 ahead after a penalty from Ford on 49 minutes.

Ulster made the change that should have possibly been made earlier, scrumhalf John Cooney coming on for Shanahan.

The visitors backed themselves when they finally did get a penalty opportunity within range, opting for touch. The lineout was secured, but as Leicester drove Ulster sideways, the ball was lost and the opportunity was gone.

Ulster were now beginning to make their presence felt in the home '22'. A crossfield kick from Billy Burns was taken by Timoney, the pass popped to Sean Reidy, but he was deemed to have knocked on, although it looked a harsh call.

Ulster managed to get the ball though more than five phases, and after 11 Leicester were penalised for offside - the 58th minute penalty was again popped to touch.

Treadwell secures and then Hederson and Best take the drive on angled to the left, and prop Marty Moore crashes over in the left corner. Cooney nails the conversion and Ulster trail 13-7 on the hour mark - crucially now back in that losing bonus point territory which would secure their place in the last eight.

Ulster's tails were up, the introduction of Cooney had transformed them. But it was Burns' delightful chip ahead that saw winger Baloucoune through for a try, the young winger racing around under the posts to give Cooney a simple chance to put his side ahead for the first time at 14-13 after 65 minutes.

Ulster fans held their breath as Bateman looked to be on his way through for a try, but Baloucoune made a huge tackle and as the ball went loose it was Timoney who secured it.

The limping Sean Reidy is replaced by Rob Herring - the position the replacement hooker had actually made his debut for Ireland in - Alan O'Connor comes on for Kieran Treadwell and Mike Lowry is on for Burns (HIA) which he subsequently fails.

The Tigers are pushing hard going into the last eight minutes, and inching closer and closer to the Ulster line. But under his own posts Best gets over the ball and forces the penalty, gratefully cleared away.

A crooked lineout from the Tigers was their final throw of the dice from then and Ulster closed the game out to take their place in the last eight.