Rugby Union

Battling Ulster deny Leinster top Pro12 rugby spot

Leinster were denied top spot in the Guinness PRO12 after suffering their first league defeat since December to Ulster.

Ruan Pienaar played his final game for Ulster at an emotional Kingspan Stadium but ended his time with the province in fantastic style with a terrific 17-13 win over their southern rivals.

The victory was the perfect send-off to long-serving players Pienaar and Roger Wilson, even if the win wasn't enough to force their way into the top four.

The visitors, though had already secured a top-two finish prior to this final round game and now host the Scarlets in the semi-final after their 10-game winning run in the PRO12 came to an end in what was effectively a dead rubber for both sides.

Tries in either half from Roger Wilson, on his last game before retirement, and skipper Andrew Trimble paved the way to victory for Les Kiss's side, who finished outside the play-offs for the first time since 2012.

On an emotional day for Ulster scrum-half Pienaar - playing his last game after seven years before going to France - the home side halted a three-game run without a win which had already realistically wrecked their top four hopes.

Afterwards Leinster coach Leo Cullen paid a tribute to his Ulster rivals but also told RTE that Leinster's performance was ``the most disappointing part."

"You have to give Ulster a little bit of credit," Cullen said.

"They looked emotionally charged with a lot of guys moving on and they just showed a lot more intent than we did.

"The performance is probably the most disappointing part," Cullen told RTÉ Sport.

"We were just a little bit off today. I thought Ulster were quicker on to most things, particularly in the first half, which gets us into the position where we are chasing the game.

"So, a little bit of a frustrating watch. The players are frustrated. You come to the end of the season and there's lots of distractions and we were definitely a little bit off today, which is really disappointing from our point of view.

"We had a lot of possession and put a lot of pressure on their lineout and set piece in general, but we just weren't able to dominate enough in our carries and Ulster were good at holding us up and slowing us down.

"We'll have a good look at it and have a hard look at ourselves."

Leinster with British and Irish Lions Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong in their starting side, trailed 10-6 at half-time in a scrappy game which did not involve Ulster's Lions Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jared Payne.

Ulster's Paddy Jackson ended up kicking two conversions and a penalty while Leinster were awarded a penalty try with Joey Carbery kicking a conversion and two penalties.

Carbery got Leinster under way with a fourth minute penalty but the home side came back shortly afterwards when Wilson barged over after Ulster had opted to scrum from a close-in penalty.

Jackson converted and Kiss's side led 7-3 after nine minutes. Leinster eventually cut Ulster's lead to one point in the 22nd minute after Carbery nailed a penalty when Wilson had failed to roll away.

The remainder of the half saw both sides come close to making a breakthrough but it all ended with Ulster on top and Jackson kicking a 40th minute penalty to put Ulster 10-6 in front.

Fifteen minutes after the restart, Ulster finally got the breakthrough and after finally securing some line-out ball they surged into Leinster's 22 with Pienaar providing the cross-kick for Trimble to dot down.

Jackson's superb touchline conversion put Ulster 17-6 in front and Leinster were then denied a score by the TMO after a great drive from Furlong.

Two minutes later, though, Leinster were awarded a penalty try which Carbery converted to cut Ulster's lead to 17-13 after 61 minutes and there were no further scores in the game with Pienaar leaving the field eight minutes later to a standing ovation.

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