Ulster got their hands on the ball early, showing good enterprise before a forward pass on half-way stopped them in their tracks, and Leinster used their post-scrum possession well to earn a penalty which Jonathan Sexton dispatched with ease in the fifth minute. From the restart, the hosts continued to put Ulster under intense pressure, and only a knock-on metres from the line by Luke Fitzgerald on 11 minutes spared the visitors from falling further behind.
As the tie edged toward the end of the first quarter, both sides were displaying a fair degree of caution, and when Ulster transgressed on half-way in the 20th minute, Sexton was happy to try for a further three points from distance. His kick sailed well wide of the posts, however, but despite this minor setback the men in blue stormed forward again, and were denied a try only by a muscular tackle from Nevin Spence which forced Cian Healy into touch. It proved only a reprieve, however, and Ulster could have no complaints when Leinster built their next attack slickly, and Fergus McFadden grounded in the right-hand corner on 25 minutes. Sexton's conversion attempt struck the upright, but the score sat at Leinster 8 Ulster 0.
Leinster continued to keep Ulster on the back foot, soaking up any pressure the visitors tried to apply in the middle of the park, and Spence was again to thank for a second try-saving tackle on 32 minutes, this time on Luke Fitzgerald. As half-time approached, Ulster enjoyed their best spell of possession, but two successive surrendered lineouts scuppered any chance of a score before the break, and Sexton punished them further with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Half-Time Score Leinster 11 Ulster 0
The second half opened with Ulster showing discipline and concentration in midfield, and this was rewarded on 45 minutes with a penalty for Leinster not releasing. Ian Humphreys' kick veered just wide, however, and Ulster's tally stayed void. But a steal by Robbie Diack in a 47th-minute scrum put the Ulstermen back in control, and they strung together their best attack thus far before Spence was eventually bullied out of possession on the left wing.
Undeterred, Ulster kept on the pressure, recycling patiently and going through multiple phases, but the Leinster defence was exemplary, and the attack eventually broke down with Darren Cave penalised for not releasing the ball quickly enough after the tackle. With Paul Marshall replacing Humphreys on the hour, Ruan Pienaar slotted into the out-half berth, and was on-hand moments later to slot home an astounding penalty from well within his own half, opening Ulster's account at Leinster 11 Ulster 3.
The Ulstermen continued to enjoy the lion's share of possession as the 70-minute mark approached, but with time becoming more and more of the essence, the crucial opening just would not present itself, and when Leinster got the ball back on 72 minutes, Fitzgerald was there to slice through the defence and land the match-securing second try. The score was converted by McFadden this time to extend the gap to Leinster 18 Ulster 3.
The match closed without any further incident, bringing down the curtain on a positive season for Ulster both domestically and in Europe. Competitive rugby now takes a break from Ravenhill until September, when the aim will be to improve on this term's Magners League semi-final and Heineken Cup last-eight place.
Full-Time Score Leinster 18 Ulster 3
(15 - 9) I Nacewa; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, J Sexton, I Boss
(1 - 8) C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (c), N Hines, S O'Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip
Replacements (16 - 23) J Harris-Wright, H van der Merwe, S Wright, D Toner, K McLaughlin, E Reddan, I Madigan, D Kearney
(15 - 9) A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, N Spence, S Danielli; I Humphreys, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) T Court, R Best (c), D Fitzpatrick, J Muller, T Barker, P Wannenburg, C Henry, R Diack
Replacements (16 - 23) A Kyriacou, P McAllister, J Cronin, N McComb, T Anderson, P Marshall, I Whitten, C Gaston
|Leinster Rugby Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|