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Four-time European champions Leinster Rugby welcome Ulster Rugby to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening in an all-Irish quarter-final, live on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS from 17:45 GMT.
It will be just the second time the two provinces will have met in Europe’s elite club competition, having played in the 2012 final at Twickenham together, with Leinster triumphing 42-14.
Leinster Rugby: 1st, Pool 1, 25 points
Ulster Rugby: 2nd, Pool 4, 22 points
Leinster Rugby wins: 1
Ulster Rugby wins: 0
Leinster Rugby: Johnny Sexton (36), Sean Cronin (30), Ross Byrne (26)
Ulster Rugby: John Cooney (33), Jacob Stockdale (30), Will Addison (18)
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) March 27, 2019
- Jordan Larmour (Leinster): “Saturday is going to be a massive day for the club. I think we have a bit of a point to prove after last weekend.”
- Jordi Murphy (Ulster): “Knockout rugby in Europe is very exciting and to be doing it with a young new group, a new coach and new staff this year is everything that I came here to do.”
- Ross Byrne replaces the injured Johnny Sexton in the Leinster No.10 jersey. Replacements Mick Kearney and Andrew Porter are set to make their 50th appearances for the province.
- Iain Henderson returns to the Ulster second row after recovering from injury, while centre Luke Marshall is included in the matchday squad for the first time this season following an ACL injury last May.
- Leinster and Ulster have met just once before in Europe’s top flight – the 2012 final in which Leinster were runaway 42-14 winners at Twickenham.
- Ulster have come up against Irish opposition twice in the tournament. The defeat to Leinster in the 2012 decider, as well also a famous away quarter-final win against Munster at Thomond Park in the same season.
- Holders Leinster have won seven of their last eight quarter-finals and have not lost a home game at this stage since 2005 when they were defeated by Leicester Tigers, winning all six home ties since at the quarter-final stage.
- Ulster’s last two appearances in the knockout stage saw them eliminated by Saracens in 2013, and by Saracens again the following season.
- Leinster scored the most points (204) and tries (27) in the pool stage this season.
- Ulster were the most disciplined side in the pool stage conceding a competition-low 38 penalties, while Leinster conceded the second fewest (41).
- Johnny Sexton landed 17 of his 18 kicks at goal during the pool stage, and his success rate of 94% is the best of any player to take more than 10 attempts.
- Of the 249 players to make 25+ carries in the pool stage, Jacob Stockdale had the best average gain per carry (10.6 metres).
- Leinster and Ulster have the joint top two try scorers this season with Sean Cronin and Jacob Stockdale both crossing six times in the pool stage.
- Billy Burns provided five try assists in the pool stage, the joint-most of any player, with three of those coming from kick passes.
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Leinster Rugby fly-half Ross Byrne scored 16 points as the four-time champions edged past fellow Irish province Ulster Rugby 21-18 to advance into the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals.
At a raucous Aviva Stadium, it was Ulster who sent their supporters into raptures initially, after captain Rory Best charged down a Garry Ringrose kick and Kieran Treadwell swooped on the loose ball and touched down. John Cooney, with his first kick at the ground, converted the score.
However, it did not take long for Leinster to respond, with Byrne, starting at fly-half for the third consecutive game in the competition, darting over in the corner after identifying a numbers advantage on the blindside. He was unable to convert his own score from the touchline, though.
He then missed a chance to redeem himself moments later after his penalty kick drifted wide and his error was compounded when Cooney extended Ulster’s lead with a successful penalty of his own.
The Leinster half-back did slot two penalties in succession, though, to give his side the lead, before Cooney responded with three points off the tee himself to give Ulster a 13-11 advantage at half-time
The tremendous intensity continued when the second half began, with Ulster the more threatening, and they had an opportunity to extend their lead through the competition’s joint-top try-scorer, Jacob Stockdale. However, after evading a number of defenders, the Ireland wing knocked on as he attempted to dot the ball down over the try-line, with the TMO confirming the try should not stand.
HUGE try for Leinster! 🙌
Sensational play from Jack Conan and Adam Byrne touches down in the corner!
The Ireland back-rower even managed to pull his shorts up mid-break, outstanding! 👌 pic.twitter.com/FCx85VJ9y0
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) March 30, 2019
The momentum then shifted in Leinster’s favour and with the visitors beginning to tire, No. 8 Jack Conan exploded through the Ulster defence and offloaded to wing Adam Byrne, who dived over for the hosts’ second try. Ross Byrne converted.
However, Ulster, who lost their only previous European match against Leinster in the 2012 final, would not give up. Replacement Luke Marshall capped off some tremendous work by his pack to power over. Cooney missed his conversion to leave the scores tied at 18-18.
Despite struggling with cramp, Ross Byrne showed how it should be done by slotting the winning penalty to send Leinster into the semi-finals for the 11th time.
BT Sport’s Ben Kay awarded the Heineken Man of the Match to Conan, who said after the game: “That was incredibly tough, probably the toughest game I’ve played all year. Huge credit to Ulster, who threw the kitchen sink at us. They put in an incredible shift for 80 minutes and to have a full house here means the world to the lads, so we’re pleased to grind it out.”
Incredible support today. Thank you ⚪️🔴 pic.twitter.com/E2pcfFKdUW
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) March 30, 2019
They will now play either Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, 21 April.