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Dublin: -1°C Monday 25 January 2021

Ulster give Pienaar a winning farewell as Leinster miss out on top spot

The South African made a classy assist for Andrew Trimble’s crucial try.

Ulster 17

Leinster 13

Murray Kinsella reports from Kingspan Stadium

WITH THE CLOCK winding down in Belfast this evening, the big screen panned to a shot of Ruan Pienaar on the sideline, with the visiting Johann Muller sitting alongside him.

Two South African giants for the province, both of them now looking back on their Ulster careers.

Ruan Pienaar of leaves the pitch Pienaar received a standing ovation. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Pienaar wanted to stay beyond the summer but the IRFU were firm in denying Ulster their wish of re-contracting the Springbok and so the crowd at Kingspan Stadium said goodbye to a legend of the province this evening as Ulster gave him a winning farewell.

Les Kiss knows there is hard work ahead of the northern province for next season and his life will be made all the more difficult without Pienaar. A fifth-place finish in the Pro12 simply isn’t enough for a team of Ulster’s ambition and resource.

Leinster, meanwhile, slipped to second in the table with this defeat and that means they will host the Scarlets at the RDS in the semi-finals in two weekends’ time.

Stuart Lancaster and Leo Cullen will be looking for far greater attacking quality from their side when the Welsh region travel to Dublin, with their error count in possession far too high in Belfast.

The game made a lively start as Joey Carbery opened the scoring from the tee after Alan O’Connor was pinged for a high tackle, then Ulster responded with a try for Roger Wilson on his 221st and final appearance for the province.

Stuart McCloskey had carried well off a close-range scrum, laying the platform for Wilson to pick and drive through Jack Conan’s tackle, allowing Paddy Jackson to convert for a 7-3 lead.

Joey Carbery beats Ruan Pienaar Joey Carbery looks to beat Ruan Pienaar. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Carbery somehow hit the post with a very kickable shot in the 20th minute, but popped over three points two minutes later when Wilson failed to roll away.

In truth, the second quarter was poor fare as Ulster’s handling inaccuracy stymied their attacking efforts, but Jackson did slot a penalty just before the break to ensure a 10-6 half-time lead.

Conan burst through replacement prop Ricky Lutton’s tackle early in the second half in a moment that looked it could break the game, only for Charles Piutau to pull of a reflexive intercept of the Leinster number eight’s pass to Isa Nacewa.

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Relocated to fullback after an injury to Craig Gilroy, Piutau soon broke up the right but couldn’t find Jackson inside him, the out-half screaming for a pass with the tryline beckoning.

But Ulster flooded back at Leinster, McCloskey throwing a nice skip pass to Andrew Trimble. The northern province’s forwards then battered at the Leinster tryline but it took a moment of class from Pienaar to unlock the defence.

The departing South African scrum-half casually lofted a right-footed kick pass to Trimble over in the right corner, a sensational moment of skill from a man who will be missed on the pitch next season.

Ruan Pienaar makes his was on to the pitch for his final game Pienaar with his son, Jean Luc, before kick-off. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jackson converted smartly for a 17-6 lead, but Leinster sprung four of their bench to make an impact and Cian Healy looked to have scored from close-range – following some balletic footwork by Tadhg Furlong – only for the TMO review to show Lutton and Chris Henry had held him up.

Healy’s impact continued at the resulting series of five-metre scrums, however, with Leinster winning two penalties before referee Andrew Brace headed under the posts for a penalty try that was converted by Carbery.

Wilson departed to a standing ovation, but Leinster had grabbed momentum and good hands saw McFadden released up the left only for his pass back inside to be knocked on by Luke McGrath.

Garry Ringrose was next to break, a searing run on a midfield arc, but then Noel Reid’s wide pass was almost picked off by Jacob Stockdale, the Ulster replacement wing just knocking-on when he would likely have scored if he’d held.

Pienaar left the paddock with 10 minutes to go, receiving a huge standing ovation from the Ulstermen, and with Leinster’s attacking game continuing to misfire the scrum-half was able to watch as his side finished a disappointing season with a victory.

Ulster scorers:

Tries: Roger Wilson, Andrew Trimble

Conversions: Paddy Jackson [2 from 2]

Penalties: Paddy Jackson

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Penalty try

Conversions: Joey Carbery [1 from 1]

Penalties: Joey Carbery [2 from 3]

ULSTER: Craig Gilroy (Jacob Stockdale ’48); Andrew Trimble (captain), Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Charles Piutau (Peter Nelson ’59); Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall ’70); Andy Warwick (Kyle McCall ’67), Rob Herring (John Andrew ’76), Rodney Ah You (Ricky Lutton ’31); Kieran Treadwell (Nick Timoney ’67), Alan O’Connor; Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy (Chris Henry ’53 to ’59), Roger Wilson (Chris Henry ’63).

LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa (captain); Adam Byrne; Garry Ringrose, Noel Reid (Rory O’Loughlin ’73), Fergus McFadden; Joey Carbery, Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park ’63); Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’57), James Tracy (Richardt Strauss ’57), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’67); Devin Toner, Hayden Triggs (Ross Molony ’57); Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier (Dan Leavy ’57), Jack Conan.

Replacement not used: Ross Byrne.

Referee: Andrew Brace [IRFU].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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