By Bea Asprey, Rugby World Writer
In a nutshell
Edinburgh put up a hearty fight, but in a performance that echoed recent Scotland outings, they could not convert their pressure to points. The visitors threw everything they could at Ulster in attack, but mistakes at crucial moments meant they butchered many chances to add to their points tally. Ulster’s scrum dominated that of Edinburgh despite the absence of All Black prop John Afoa, and the Northern Irish province will travel to Twickenham on 19 May to play in their first Heineken Cup final since they won the tournament in 1999.
Edinburgh captain Greig Laidlaw stripping the ball off Ulster’s No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, a man twice his size, in the third quarter of the game epitomised the Scots’ determination. It wasn’t to turn the game the around for the visitors, but the No 10 inspired his team to keep the pressure on until the final whistle, and national coach Andy Robinson will have been delighted with his gritty performance.
Ulster were never short of power, but their display was masterminded by Man of the Match Ruan Pienaar (right). The South African oozed class, and his flawless kicking display booted the province to victory.
Room for improvement
Edinburgh lacked composure in attack, and their mistakes cost them dearly. They spilt the ball a number of times in Ulster’s half, and although they exerted constant pressure they were unable to impose themselves where it mattered – on the score board.
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin: “We’re very pleased to have won but disappointed with the way we played the game. We’re looking forward to getting to Twickenham now, we’re a better rugby side than that.
“Our set piece was outstanding throughout the whole game and our defence was rock solid. We turned over the ball in vital moments.
“The whole street was red and white this morning, the support has been fantastic, and this has been an unforgettable experience.”
Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley: “We’re feeling a mixture of disappointment and frustration. We had a number of opportunities deep in their 22, which we overplayed, and we were not able to force our game on Ulster.
“Edinburgh rugby has taken a positive step forward. The player talent is stunning. There’s young guys coming through who are exceptional, but we also have international players that have a burning desire to win, and we saw that today.”
Ulster have appeared in just two semi-finals – and have won both. They faced Stade Francais at Ravenhill in 1999, winning 33-27 before going on to beat Colomiers 21-6 in the final. They will face the winner of Sunday’s Clermont v Leinster at Twickenham. Connacht fans will be cheering for an all-Ireland final, as if one of their fellow provinces lifts the trophy, they will earn them a spot in next year’s tournament.
ULSTER: Stefan Terblanche; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court (Paddy McAllister 77), Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick (Adam Macklin 65), Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferrism(Lewis Stevenson 77), Willie Faloon (Robbie Diack 73), Pedrie Wannenburg.
Not used: Nigel Brady, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Adam D’Arcy.
Try: Wannenburg. Con: Pienaar. Pens: Pienaar (5)
EDINBURGH: Tom Brown; Lee Jones (Jim Thompson 70), Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw (capt), Mike Blair; Allan Jacobsen (Kyle Traynor 77), Ross Ford, Geoff Cross (Jack Gilding 73), Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox, David Denton, Ross Rennie (Roddy Grant 56), Netani Talei.
Not used: Andrew Kelly, Steven Turnbull, Chris Leck, Phil Godman.
Try: Thompson. Con: Laidlaw. Pens: Laidlaw (4).
Referee: Romain Poite
Click here for more pics from the match.