Leinster defeated Ulster 18-3 to secure a place in the Magners League Grand Final. In what was a very scrappy game it was thanks to tries from Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald that helped Joe Schmidt’s side to advance to the final over an error ridden Ulster side.
The one huge worry for Leinster tonight will be the number of injuries that they picked up. Isaac Boss, Mike Ross, Brian O Driscoll, Cian Healy, Jonny Sexton and Richard Strauss were all taking off before the hour mark.
In a game that was played in glorious sunshine at the RDS it was Leinster who started the brighter and took the game to Ulster. Led by some good play at the breakdown by the Leinster forwards it was Brian O Driscoll and Sean O Brien who combined to make the first break of the game.
O Driscoll managed to dance his way pass the Ulster defence and released O Brien who made a charge for the line but was held up by three Ulster players. Ulster did give away a penalty for their troubles and Jonny Sexton slotted the ball over the bar and gave Leinster a 3-0 lead.
Despite having the wind at their backs in the first half Leinster adopted to keep the ball in hand for much of the opening stages of this match and it was thanks to some good ball in hand play that almost gave Leinster the opening try of the game on the 10 minute mark.
After some good play from Richardt Strauss who dodged a couple of poor Ulster tackles the ball was released to Luke Fitzgerald who wasn’t able to gather the ball and knocked it on. It was a warning sign to Ulster as Leinster looked to break the gain line when they had decent ball.
To their credit Ulster managed to keep themselves in the game in the first half. Ruan Pienaar kicked well out of hand and Nevin Spence looked dangerous when he got the ball. They didn’t help their own cause in the first half as too many handling errors scuppered their momentum.
The Leinster pressure finally told on the 24 minute mark when Fergus McFadden scored the opening try of the game. From a Leinster lineout the ball was held up just short of the line before Isaac Boss worked the ball out to Brian O Driscoll, who fed Isa Nacewa, whose quick hands freed McFadden to go over in the corner.
That try should have been the catalyst for Leinster to go forward and stretch their lead but a combination of good defence and some poor execution from Leinster kept the game relatively close. There was also huge concern for Leinster up to half time as both Issac Boss and Mike Ross went off with injuries. Brian O Driscoll also took a huge tackle close to the break and was forced off at the halftime interval.
The opening exchanges of the second half belonged to Ulster who were determined to force their way back into the game but again the combination of good defence from Leinster and some poor decisions and handling errors cost Ulster dear.
Once again, just as in the last encounter, Leinster chose to empty the bench with both Jonny Sexton and Cian Healy both been withdrawn before the hour mark. Richardt Strauss also had to leave the field with what looked like a serious injury.
Even with the Leinster players dropping like flies Ulster were still not able to take advantage and it took until the 61st minute when Ruan Pienaar nailed a jaw dropping penalty from five meters inside his own half.
The game as a contest was wrapped up on 71 minutes when Luke Fitzgerald capped a good night’s work with a wonderful individual try to give Leinster the buffer that they needed. Fergus McFadden tacked on the extras to give Leinster an 18-3 lead which they held until the final whistle.
Victory for Leinster means that they will face the winner of the Munster and Ospreys game in the Thomand Park tomorrow night. Joe Schmidt can reflect on a solid display from his team and can look forward to Northampton in the Heineken Cup final a week on Saturday.