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)
Leinster v Toulouse: Line-ups revealed.
The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to play Toulouse in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup Semi-Final in the Aviva Stadium has been named by Head Coach Leo Cullen (Kick Off: 3.15pm – live on Virgin Media, BT Sport, Channel 4 & RTÉ Radio).
Cullen has made a number of changes from the team that played last weekend against Glasgow Warriors with captain Johnny Sexton back from injury having recovered from a quad injury.
Elsewhere in the backs Rob Kearney again starts at full back, Jordan Larmour is again on the right wing but James Lowe comes in on the left.
In the centre Robbie Henshaw is again selected but is joined this week by Garry Ringrose.
In the half backs the aforementioned Sexton, is partnered by Luke McGrath.
In the pack only Devin Toner and Seán O’Brien are retained from last week with Cian Healy, Seán Cronin and Tadhg Furlong starting in the front row, with Toner and James Ryan behind them in the second row.
Rhys Ruddock is selected at blindside with O’Brien again at openside and finally Jack Conan at number eight.
Saracens v Munster: Line-Ups revealed.
George Kruis will make his 50th European appearance this weekend when Saracens take on Munster in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals.
The second row made his debut in the competition back in the 2010/11 season and was instrumental in Sarries’ back-to-back successes.
Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth’s long-awaited return from injury will see him reach a century of games in Europe from the bench.
Captain Brad Barritt has recovered from an ankle injury to slot back in at inside centre alongside Alex Lozowski.
The duo, and Kruis, are three of 10 changes to the starting XV that suffered defeat at Bristol Bears last weekend.
Liam Williams comes back in on the wing while Ben Spencer and Owen Farrell are the half-back pairing.
USA international Titi Lamositele keeps his place in the front row and is joined by Mako Vunipola – his first Sarries appearance since January – and Jamie George.
Maro Itoje partners Kruis in the boiler and Billy Vunipola starts at Number 8.
Saracens team to face Munster in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final at the Ricoh Arena (KO 15H00):
FORWARDS: Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Titi Lamositele, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Mike Rhodes, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola.
BACKS: Alex Goode, Sean Maitland, Alex Lozowski, Brad Barritt, Liam Williams, Owen Farrell, Ben Spencer.
REPLACEMENTS: Joe Gray, Richard Barrington, Vincent Koch, Will Skelton, Schalk Burger, Richard Wigglesworth, Nick Tompkins, David Strettle.
Head Coach Johann van Graan has named the Munster side for Saturday’s record 14th Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens at the Ricoh Arena (3pm, live on BT Sport and beIN Sports).
There are 12 changes to the side that earned an impressive win away to Benetton in Italy last weekend as Mike Haley, Darren Sweetnam and Jack O’Donoghue keep their places.
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony leads the side on his 50th Champions Cup appearance. O’Mahony has started each of his 49 appearances in the competition to date, including all 23 of the province’s Champions Cup games over the last three seasons.
Haley starts at full-back with Andrew Conway and Sweetnam on either flank.
Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell form the centre partnership with Conor Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal in the half-backs.
Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan pack down in the front row with Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne in the engine room.
O’Mahony, O’Donoghue and CJ Stander complete the starting XV.
Keith Earls misses out due to injury having failed to make it through this week’s training.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Dan Goggin.
Referees confirmed for European Cup semi-finals
Men in the middle confirmed.
This weekend, domestic rugby takes a break for the European Semi Final Showdowns.
Jérome Garcès has been selected to take charge of that game with assistant referees Romain Poite and Mathieu Raynal and TMO Philippe Bonhoure completing the
Saturday 20th April
HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP
Saracens v Munster Rugby (Ricoh Arena, 3pm)
Referee: Jérome Garcès (Fra)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (Fra), Mathieu Raynal (Fra)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (Fra)
Sunday 21st April
Leinster vs. Toulouse (Aviva Stadium
Referee: Wayne Barnes (Eng)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (Eng), Matthew Carley (Eng)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (Eng)
ASM Clermont Auvergne v Harlequins
Referee: John Lacey (Ire)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (Ire), George Clancy (Ire)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ire)
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Leinster v Toulouse: Line-ups revealed.
Saracens v Munster: Line-Ups revealed.
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