Leinster edged Ulster 21-18 in their thrilling European Champions Cup quarter-final in Dublin on Saturday.
In what was only the fifth all-Irish playoff in the 24-year history of the competition, the defending champions pulled through but had to overcome a sturdy challenge from Ulster.
Leinster were without World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton but his replacement Ross Byrne made the most of his opportunity in the No 10 jersey. Ulster captain Rory Best succumbed to a foot injury early in the game, with South African Rob Herring replacing him at hooker.
The visitors drew first blood when lock Kieran Treadwell scored after Garry Ringrose’s clearance kick from inside the 22 was charged down. Byrne hit back for Leinster with an unconverted try to reduce the deficit to two. Byrne and John Cooney then traded penalties twice as Ulster went into the break 13-11 up.
The second half was a nervy affair. No 8 Jack Conan went on a powerful run and broke the first line of defence to set up wing Adam Byrne for Leinster’s second try.
But Ulster refused to throw in the towel and in the 65th minute, they drew level when Luke Marshall cantered over.
With nine minutes remaining and the game in the balance, Ulster were penalised and Byrne added the three crucial points that would take Leinster into the semi-finals.
Leinster – Tries: Ross Byrne, Adam Byrne. Conversion: Ross Byrne. Penalties: Ross Byrne (3).
Ulster – Tries: Kieran Treadwell, Luke Marshall. Conversion: John Cooney. Penalties: Cooney (2).
Leinster – 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Seán O’Brien, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 James Ryan, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Rob Kearney.
Ulster – 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcelle Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Nick Timoney, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Subs: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Angus Kernohan.
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