The Dubliners got off to a great start when Ulster hesitation in the left-hand corner after a Jonathan Sexton kick-on allowed prop Richardt Strauss to bundle over the line within two minutes. Sexton's conversion was off-target, and Ulster reacted well to the concession of a very early try for the second time in as many weeks with a sixth-minute penalty by Ian Humphreys from the Leinster 22, setting the score at Leinster 5 Ulster 3.
But a second Leinster try was not long in coming, with Isa Nacewa finding himself in acres of space down the left flank, and able to supply Luke Fitzgerald for a very soft score. Sexton's conversion attempt spiralled wide of the post for a second time, but his team were already seven points to the good after 10 minutes.
The Ulster nightmare continued as Shane Horgan touched down in the opposite corner on 13 minutes after a patient build-up from Leinster, and this time Sexton was on target with his most difficult conversion of all three to raise the score to Leinster 17 Ulster 3.
Somewhat shell-shocked, Ulster were able to put together their first meaningful attack on 18 minutes, their forwards showing a mixture of brain and brawn in an encouraging phase of play to force their way to the 10-metre line, before Leinster infringed on the ground and Humphreys snatched three more points back with the boot. Then, when Stan Wright was penalised for not binding in the scrum on 27 minutes, Humphreys stepped up once more to put over his third kick and bring the scoreline up to a healthier-looking Leinster 17 Ulster 9.
However events then took another turn for the worse, with a chain of consequences that would see Ulster 15 points adrift at the break. First BJ Botha hobbled off with an injury in the 33rd minute, then Sexton registered his first penalty of the evening, before Pedrie Wannenburg was sinbinned for slowing down the ball, and Heinke van der Merwe landed Leinster's bonus-point-winning try on 37 minutes. Sexton converted again and although Ruan Puenaar kicked a penalty on the stroke of half-time, Ulster ran in at half-time with a veritable mountain to climb.
Half-Time Score Leinster 27 Ulster 12
The second half started in much the same vein, as a fortunate chip and catch from Horgan allowed the huge winger to ghost through the Ulster defence and grab his second try of the night, to put the tie beyond any doubt there may have been. Sexton converted to make it Leinster 34 Ulster 12.
Ulster refused to get disheartened and were rewarded for their sheer persistence on 53 minutes when Wannenburg was adjudged to have touched down amid a sea of bodies just left of the posts. Pienaar, having taken over kicking duties after Humphreys had sustained a knock at the close of the first half, converted to bring the margin back to 15 points at Leinster 34 Ulster 19.
To their eternal credit, the Ulstermen continued to press, and, after surviving an errant Fergus McFadden penalty on 70 minutes, saw great determination and footwork carry Craig Gilroy through for his eighth Magners League try with five minutes remaining. The Pienaar conversion made a losing bonus point a possibility with the score at Leinster 34 Ulster 26.
The hosts, however, made sure this did not materialise by playing out the end of the game deep in the Ulster half, and, at the final whistle, vaulted over Brian McLaughlin's men to move up to second place in the Magners League.
Full-Time Score Leinster 34 Ulster 26
(15 - 9) I Nacewa; S Horgan, E O'Malley, F McFadden, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, I Boss
(1 - 8) H van der Merwe, R Strauss, S Wright, L Cullen (c), D Toner, K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip
Replacements (16 - 23) J Harris-Wright, C Healy, M Ross, N Hines, S O'Brien, E Reddan, I Madigan, D Kearney
(15 - 9) A D'Arcy; A Trimble, N Spence, P Wallace, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) P McAllister, R Best (c), BJ Botha, T Barker, D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry, P Wannenburg
Replacements (16 - 23) A Kyriacou, J Cronin, B Young, N McComb, W Faloon, P Marshall, D Cave, C Gaston
|Leinster Rugby Score Card|
|Heinke van der Merwe||1||5|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|