The injuries sustained by Tommy Bowe and Dan Tuohy on said Heineken Cup duty meant first XV berths for Craig Gilroy and Neil McComb at wing and lock respectively, while both Roger Wilson and Paddy Wallace were rested on the bench, making way for Williams at Number Eight and Luke Marshall at centre.
Although Ulster shaded the first half overall, it was far from the perfect performance, as handling errors and below-par kicking undermined much of the good work executed collectively around the park. Paddy Jackson had an early chance to open the Ulster account on four minutes with a penalty from just outside the Leinster '22', but uncharacteristically bent his kick wide of the left-hand upright.
Nevertheless, Ulster made by far the more dynamic start, and were disappointed to reach the 10-minute mark with nothing to show for their superiority. Then, as Leinster belatedly settled into the tie, Jackson's opposite number Ian Madigan kicked over the first points, courtesy of two penalties from a distance similar to that from which the Ulsterman had missed, making it Ulster 0 Leinster 6 by 18 minutes.
Good positional kicking from Jackson, as a further penalty was called in Ulster's favour at the beginning of the second quarter, got the hosts the put-in deep in Leinster territory, but, as the visitors infringed again, the out-half once more pulled his kick off-target. He finally split the posts from a more central position on 25 minutes, and, as the tide started to turn, and Leinster began to commit the basic errors from which they had until that point seemed immune, distance kicker Pienaar levelled proceedings on the half-hour with a precise penalty from behind the Leinster 10-metre line.
The Leinstermen responded immediately, however, once again thanks to Madigan's boot, but, as Williams caught a high ball soon after the restart with all the poise of an accomplished full-back, Ulster stepped up a gear and went on to reap the reward for several minutes' worth of intense pressure with the award of a penalty try after illegal prevention of the score in a five-metre scrum. Pienaar's conversion gave Ulster a four-point cushion going into the break.
Half-Time Score Ulster 13 Leinster 9
Leinster wasted no time making their presence felt as play resumed, Sean O'Brien picking up a loose ball as Ulster dithered at the restart. The ensuing phase of play culminated with Madigan kicking over his fourth consecutive penalty, but, as Trimble alertly intercepted a flat pass on the Leinster '22' moments later, the big men weighed in up front and Williams, picking up a metre from the line as Ulster recycled brightly, spiralled over the whitewash for a consummate forward's try. Pienaar converted to raise the score to Ulster 20 Leinster 12.
After a narrow escape for Leinster on the hour as Pienaar only just failed to charge down a desperate clearance attempt, Ulster's continued domination at the scrum forced another infringement on the '22', but this time the usually-reliable Springbok screwed his kick just wide of the posts. Despite this minor reprieve, time was fast running out for the visitors, and although their case was helped by a 70th minute yellow card for Rory Best, Madigan inexplicably fluffed the resultant penalty, marooning his side at a full eight points adrift.
The third try owed much to the quick thinking of Pienaar, who picked up from yet another ground-devouring Ulster maul on 73 minutes, and kicked crossfield towards the right-hand corner flag, where Trimble outjumped two opponents to collect and weave over the line. Pienaar added the extras to put the result beyond doubt at Ulster 27 Leinster 12.
Leinster registered a late consolation as Fergus McFadden dived over with two minutes remaining, and despite Madigan's conversion, Leinster finished the match one point shy of what could have been a crucial losing bonus in the race for a top four spot.
Full-Time Score Ulster 27 Leinster 19
(15 - 9) J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) T Court, R Best, J Afoa, I Henderson, N McComb, R Diack, C Henry (c), N Williams
Replacements (16 - 23) R Herring, C Black, A Macklin, A O'Connor, R Wilson, P Marshall, P Wallace, A D'Arcy
(15 - 9) N Reid; A Conway, B Macken, G D'Arcy, F McFadden; I Madigan, E Reddan
(1 - 8) C Healy, S Cronin, M Bent, L Cullen (c), D Toner, K McLaughlin, S O'Brien, J Heaslip
Replacements (16 - 23) A Dundon, H van der Merwe, J Hagan, T Denton, R Ruddock, I Boss, A Goodman, A Byrne
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|
|Leinster Rugby Score Card|