Ulster got off to a flying start as they put in a couple of crunching tackles on the hosts and were rewarded for their pressure in first five minutes.
Garry Ringrose took the decision to kick even with Ulstermen chasing him, leading Iain Henderson and Rory Best charging the kick down for Kieran Treadwell to pounce for an easy try.
John Cooney slotted home the conversion and it was 7-0 with six minutes on the clock. A dream opening for the underdogs.
However, Leinster bounced-back almost immediately, going through the phases before Ross Byrne chose not to pass but to carry instead and in the tackle with an outstretched arm touched the ball down.
He missed the conversion to leave matters at 7-5 to the away side with only 11 minutes gone.
The high-intensity continued and Ulster captain Best went off after 16 minutes due to an ankle injury.
Byrne was handed a penalty opportunity in front of the posts 50 metres out midway through the half, only for him to send it wide once more.
Cooney had no such problems from the tee when given his chance from a Cian Healy penalty moments later, and instead of Leinster going ahead four minutes previous they were now 10-5 behind.
Just past the half-hour mark Byrne began to make up for his errors. Landing a penalty following a Nick Timoney infringement.
Another Byrne penalty soon after put Leinster in the lead for the first time.
Although it was the visitors who went in smiling at half-time with Cooney kicking his second penalty of the night to make it 13-11.
The incredible pace of the opening half continued when the sides returned, and Ulster should have stretched their lead five minutes in.
Jacob Stockdale flew down the wing following a pass on the blindside from Billy Burns, leaving Leinster men in his wake. He got to the try-line as Dave Kearney put in a routine tackle past the line as it looked like Stockdale had scored his seventh try of the tournament.
It wasn’t to be though, as replays showed that he had knocked the ball on while trying to place it
Within minutes that mistake seemed crucial as the host pounded the opposition defence before man of the match Jack Conan decided to have a pick and go from the back of a ruck and sprint forward.
He, much like Stockdale previously, left defenders looking at the back of him, all the while trying to pull up his shorts. He was eventually taken down by Stockdale only to deliver a beautiful offload to Adam Byrne, who finished off the move.
Ross Byrne delivered the extras and it was 18-13 to Leinster.
A long delay followed minutes later as replacement Dan Leavy, who only returned to action last weekend, went down with what seemed to be a very serious knee injury.
During that time Ulster centre Luke Marshall, who himself was returning to action for the first time since last May came on and with only his second touch of the game scored a fine try to bring things level.
Cooney stepped up and uncharacteristically missed the conversion as they went into the final stages at 18 all.
Ross Byrne went down with cramp on more than one occasion over the next few minutes, but when Leinster put the pressure on and earned a penalty, he took responsibility. Sending the kick through the posts to make it a three-point game with seven minutes remaining.
Ulster continued to search for a score, but it was Leinster who ended the game in the opposition 22, as they almost went over for a try, going through 44-phases before Luke McGrath kicked the ball out to confirm the 21-18 win.
After the game, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted his relief at winning and knows his side will have to be better going forward.
“We are relieved to be through to the semi-final. I don’t think we were anywhere near our best. We know we are in two semi-finals, but it’s about how do we build cohesion and our levels of performance so that when it comes to those games, we give a better account of ourselves than we did today,” he said while speaking to RTE Sport.
The win means Leinster are in with a chance of retaining their European crown, but it may have come at a cost with Leavy’s injury and the possibility of losing Byrne to injury also. While Ulster will rue a missed opportunity to dethrone their rivals in what was an epic encounter.
Leinster: Jordan Larmour (6), Adam Byrne (7), Garry Ringrose (6), Rory O’Loughlin (5), Dave Kearney (7), Ross Byrne (8), Luke McGrath (7); Cian Healy (6), Sean Cronin (6), Tadhg Furlong (7), Scott Fardy (8), James Ryan (7), Rhys Ruddock (7), Sean O’Brien (6), Jack Conan (9)
Ulster: Michael Lowry (6), Rob Baloucoune (7), Darren Cave (7), Stuart McCloskey (7), Jacob Stockdale (7), Billy Burns (6), John Cooney (8); Eric O’Sullivan (6), Rory Best (6), Marty Moore (7), Iain Henderson (8), Kieran Treadwell (9), Nick Timoney (6), Jordi Murphy (7), Marcell Coetzee (7)
Champions Cup Round 1 Fixtures Confirmed
The Champions Cup opening round fixtures have been announced and there are some big games to kick-off the tournament
The first round of Champions Cup fixtures has been confirmed for the 2019/20 season with the tournament to begin on the weekend of the 15th of November.
Reigning champions Saracens will begin their title defence with a tough away trip to Racing 92 in what is the last game of the weekend on Sunday November 17th.
Elsewhere, last season’s beaten finalists Leinster open their tournament with a home game against competition debutants Benetton on the Saturday, while Northampton Saints host Lyon in the other match in Pool 1.
The first game of what is the 25th edition of the tournament is the Pool 5 clash of Gloucester and Toulouse, as the reigning Top 14 champions look to go a step further than last season’s semi-final defeat to Leinster. Connacht play Montpellier in the groups other game on the Sunday.
The pool stages are set to finish on the second and third weekends of January, while the final itself takes place in the Stade de Marseille on May 23rd 2020.
Another Fijian Heads to Scotland
Glasgow Warriors have confirmed the signing of a Fijian star only two days after Edinburgh captured the signing of Mesulame Kunavula
Glasgow Warriors have announced the signing of Fijian hooker Mesu Dolokota on a two-year deal from Fijian Drua.
The 24-year-old was named in Fiji’s World Cup training squad last month and will join up with the Warriors following the conclusion of the tournament in Japan.
“I’m very happy to be joining Glasgow Warriors and I’m looking forward to playing in two of the best rugby competitions in the world. The opportunity to learn from such an experienced coaching team and play in such a successful team is very exciting for me. The club has a strong Fijian history and I hope I can be a big part of it going forward,” he said.
The hooker has nine international caps for Fiji as well as having experience in Super Rugby with the Brumbies in 2015 and Glasgow assistant coach John Dalziel is delighted to add more experience to the squad.
“Mesu is an exciting talent who will bring even more international experience to our front row. He isn’t your traditional front-row forward, he likes to bring a bit of Fijian flair to his game, but he can also do the basics very well and we’re excited to work with him when he shows up following international duty,” he said.
Dolokoto follows the footsteps of fellow Fijian Mesulame Kunavula, who joined Edinburgh only a couple of days ago and the PRO 14 can look forward to some Fijian flare next season.
Leinster Unveil New European and Alternative Jerseys
Leinster have revealed their European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season
Leinster have unveiled their new Adidas European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season.
Leinster have revealed that the jersey has been inspired by meteorites that were once used to create iron spears and will be worn by the club for the next two seasons.
“The pattern of the Leinster Rugby European jersey takes inspiration from meteorites that fell from the sky and were used by the Laighin people to create their iron spear. These meteorite formations form the graphic design of the jersey paying homage to the tale of the metal of the Gods, providing bold and vibrant energy for Leinster Rugby’s European campaign,” they said on their official website.
The alternative jersey is a shade of purple with black strips horizontally across the shirt.
They have said that this jersey is inspired by the purple skyline that is seen across the east coach of Ireland.
“The Alternate jersey embodies the electric energy of Ireland’s east coast at night. The iconic purple skyline forms the colour inspiration for this season’s kit. Incorporating a twist on the traditional hoop design, the kit harnesses the vibrant energy of the province, whilst maintaining a classic look and feel,” they added.
As well as the two new jerseys Leinster will continue to wear their Adidas home jersey from the 2018/19 season for the season ahead.
You can view the full Leinster Range for the up coming season here.
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