Pro12: Ulster v LeinsterUlster (10) 17Tries: Wilson, Trimble Cons: Jackson 2 Pen: JacksonLeinster (6) 13Try: Penalty Con: Carbery Pens: Carbery 2
Ruan Pienaar had a winning competitive send-off for Ulster as the home side beat Leinster in the Pro12 derby.
Montpellier-bound Pienaar’s perfectly-weighted kick set up Andrew Trimble’s second-half score as Ulster held on despite a later Leinster penalty try.
An emotional Pienaar came off on 70 minutes while veteran Roger Wilson scored Ulster’s first-half try in his last game before his retirement.
Leinster’s defeat means they will host the Scarlets in the semi-finals.
Leo Cullen’s Leinster side went into the final series of regulation fixtures leading the table but Munster moved above them after earning a thumping 50-14 win over Connacht which means Rassie Erasmus’ team will face fourth-placed Ospreys in two weeks.
Pienaar bids farewell to under-achieving Ulster
Last weekend’s had effectively ended Ulster’s play-off hopes after another season of under-achievement for Les Kiss’ side.
Only a huge bonus-point victory over their Irish rivals and equally thumping Scarlets win over the Ospreys – resulting in a points swing of 73 – would have seen Ulster squeezing into the last four and it was never a realistic possibility.
From an Ulster point of view, that left the occasion as primarily a farewell to Pienaar after a seven-year Kingspan Stadium career which, despite his numerous magnificent individual displays, saw him missing out on any titles.
As on so many occasions, the contest was lit up by a moment of Pienaar perfection in the 55th minute as his deft crosskick allowed Trimble to touch down following a period of Ulster pressure.
Amid rapturous applause, Pienaar was replaced 15 minutes later and he was greeted in the dug-out by his compatriot and former Ravenhill team-mate Johann Muller, who travelled from home in South Africa to watch his fellow Springbok’s final competitive Ulster game.
Wilson touches down on 221st and last Ulster game
Back row Wilson was also making his 221st and last Ulster appearance and his vigorous display was highlighted by a ninth-minute try which helped the home side lead 10-6 at the break, despite a misfiring line-out.
After slipping 17-6 behind, Leinster, parading a strong side despite the absence of British & Irish Lions trio Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Sean O’Brien, fought back helped by a couple of wonderful Garry Ringrose runs.
After Cian Healy had been held up over the Ulster line, intense Leinster pressure yielded a 61st-minute penalty try which cut the margin to four but the home side held on with a degree of comfort in the closing stages.
Leinster’s other eight points came from Joey Carbery’s boot.
Ulster: C Gilroy; A Trimble (capt), L Marshall, S McCloskey, C Piutau; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Herring, R Ah You; K Treadwell, A O’Connor; R Diack, S Reidy, R Wilson.
Replacements: J Andrew, K McCall, R Lutton, C Henry, N Timoney, P Marshall, P Nelson, J Stockdale.
Leinster: I Nacewa; A Byrne, G Ringrose, N Reid, F McFadden; J Carbery, L McGrath; J McGrath, J Tracy, T Furlong; D Toner, H Triggs; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.
Replacements: R Strauss, C Healy, A Porter, R Molony, Dan Leavy, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, R O’Loughlin.