Two second half tries from Marty Moore and Robert Baloucoune sees Ulster progress to the quarter finals of the Champions Cup for the first time in four years.

It was a frustrating first half for Ulster as they struggled to get any possession in the Leicester half. The home side deservedly lead 10-0 at the interval with Matt Toomua scoring the opening try in the final play of the half. Unforced errors and knock ons ultimately proved costly as they could have been out of sight by half time.

Mistakes compounded Ulster’s half which invited Leicester pressure. Handling errors were aplenty from George Ford’s Garryowens and prevented the northern province from stringing together any meaningful phases of play. In fact, it wasn’t until four minutes before the end of the match that Ulster had a sniff of the line with Stuart McCloskey getting his arms free and offloading to Dave Shanahan. Nothing came from the move as the supporting runners were not quick enough to the breakdown and the ball was lost.

Despite this, Ulster got through a huge amount of defensive work in the first half. Up against a physical Leicester pack and Manu Tuilagi in the back line, Ulster restricted Tigers’ chances and in the end they were only able to make five clean breaks.

The second half was a different story. With the ball in hand, Ulster were dangerous and while they were still making unforced errors there was more potency in their attack. Ford made it a 13 point lead shortly after the restart but Ulster were on the board when Marty Moore crossed for his first Ulster try 18 minutes into the second half. With the wind in their sails, Ulster went through the gears and Robert Baloucoune raced in for his second try in as many matches.

Billy Burns dinked a perfectly weighted kick in behind the Leicester defence and the Enniskillen man was in the right spot at the right time to gather and score. Baloucoune became the hero of the day with a last ditch tackle on Greg Bateman with 14 minutes left. The prop had few strides head start but he made up the difference to deny the try.

Leicester kept banging down that Ulster door but they were always met with a red wall led by Rory Best, Jordi Murphy and Iain Henderson. Camped on the Ulster line inside the last ten minutes, all three popped up with turnovers to relieve the pressure.

It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and look towards that big weekend at the end of March but league action returns next Friday night with a home match against Benetton. With the internationals now away on duty, expect a few difficult encounters but it’s crucial that Ulster keep up the momentum generated from the last two victories as we’ve seen before how a European run can be detrimental to league form.

I’m not sure anyone could have predicted that Ulster would get 22 points from a European group consisting of Leicester Tigers, Scarlets and Racing 92 so its testament to how hard they’ve worked to achieve this. It’s a big ask to win in Dublin but one that will excite this youthful side and is a great chance to prove all of the doubters wrong.

6.8 Performance

Almost 24 hours after the match it still feels a bit surreal that Ulster will be in the quarter finals of the Heineken Champions Cup.
Iain Henderson and Rory Best showed once again why they are invaluable to this Ulster team while the introduction of John Cooney in the second half swung the match in the favour of the away side.
Barring a few hiccups under the high ball, Robert Baloucoune’s defensive performance was hugely impressive, making eight tackles including a terrific try saving tackle in the second half. Other mentions need to go to Will Addison, Stuart McCloskey, Kieran Treadwell and Jordi Murphy.

  • Eric O'Sullivan 6
  • Rory Best 7
  • Marty Moore 7
  • Iain Henderson 9
  • Kieran Treadwell 7
  • Sean Reidy 7
  • Jordi Murphy 7
  • Marcell Coetzee 6
  • Dave Shanahan 6
  • Billy Burns 6
  • Jacob Stockdale 6
  • Stuart McCloskey 7
  • Will Addison 8
  • Robert Baloucoune 8
  • Louis Ludik 7
  • Rob Herring 6
  • Andy Warwick 6
  • Ross Kane N/A
  • Alan O'Connor 6
  • Nick Timoney 6
  • John Cooney 8
  • Michael Lowry 6
  • Darren Cave N/A
  • User Ratings (2 Votes) 7.7

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