Red-hand gang pack a punch as Pienaar gives them final push

Ulster 22 Edinburgh 19: Kicking king earns Ulster chance of first Heineken Cup triumph since 1999

the aviva stadium

In a simplistic sense this was a triumph of power over finesse but to leave it at that would be to ignore the multiple facets of intelligence and skill that made Ulster's Ruan Pienaar a shoo-in as man of the match, and spread like a life-giving elixir throughout the province's white jerseys as they galloped through to next month's Heineken Cup final at Twickenham.

In doing so the red-hand gang will make ready to party like it was 1999, which was the year of their solitary European success to date, though they will need no warning that whoever emerges from today's Franco-Irish semi-final in Bordeaux will be formidable opposition. Ulster were runners-up to Clermont Auvergne in their pool and of course live cheek by jowl with the vastly more successful Leinster. Pienaar, whose talent has seen him play every backline position for South Africa, was first among equals in Ulster's much valued quartet of Springboks, kicked five penalties and a conversion of Pedrie Wannenburg's mildly controversial first-half try. The scrum-half's stunning reprise of the magnificent kicking that helped Ulster win in Munster in their quarter-final went hand in Ulster's red hand with a punishing scrummaging performance that made light of the absence of their suspended All Black prop John Afoa.

Pienaar said: "All of us know what it means to the city [of Belfast] and the region to reach the final. The first half we had hardly any ball, we knew we had to keep it and get territory in the second half. There were a lot of guts and character out there."

Edinburgh, like Ulster, had upset the odds to eliminate the four-times champions Toulouse in the quarters, to secure a first Scottish appearance at this stage. The first scrum was a clear signpost to Edinburgh's seventh successive defeat by an Irish side, and their 13th in a row in Ireland. It brought a penalty to Ulster when Declan Fitzpatrick, Afoa's English-born stand-in, got the benefit of the doubt in a front-row collapse. Pienaar, true to his European form, whacked the kick over from about 60 metres accounting for the angle. He was not to miss thereafter.

Edinburgh were wedded to darting changes of direction and rapid offloading. Whereas the 40,000 or so Ulster supporters were deafening, the Edinburgh fly-half and captain Greig Laidlaw's two kicks for a 6-3 lead were hailed lustily if much less audibly by a backing outnumbered by at least 10 to one.

And there was some loud debate over Ulster's try after 15 minutes. A brief overlap for the backs near the 22 was wasted; not so the subsequent scrum close to the goalline though perhaps the referee Romain Poite was lenient in allowing Wannenburg to hook the ball back into the scrum before the No 8 picked up and drove over through slack defence. Pienaar converted for 10-6.

Long phases of possession and time spent in Ulster's 22 brought nothing for Edinburgh even though they were buoyed when Stefan Terblanche went to the sin bin in the 29th minute for slapping an opponent in a ruck. Pienaar's second long penalty followed and just before the interval Laidlaw chipped one in return to narrow the margin to four points.

A madcap sequence of intercepted passes to start the second half hinted that Ulster might fancy opening up, a la Edinburgh, and the apparent recalibration continued when Laidlaw kicked his fourth penalty for offside. A punt down the line earned Ulster valuable field position and a series of line-outs, scrums and penalties saw Dan Tuohy held up short, and Wannenburg dramatically stripped of the ball under the posts by a fantastically gutsy Laidlaw.

Edinburgh brought Roddy Grant on for the hard-working Ross Rennie and immediately conceded a penalty at a scrum that Pienaar kicked from 40 metres for 16-12 after 58 minutes. Both kickers made the swirling wind appear an insignificant zephyr. The question was whether the legs of Edinburgh's remaining back-row starters David Denton and Netani Talei would hold out, after they had put in so many hard yards dealing with Steve Ferris and company. Ulster then wrought two more penalties for 22-12. Edinburgh were struggling to get out of their half until much too late when Talei's breakout with a link by Matt Scott made a try for replacement Jim Thompson.

Laidlaw said he thought Edinburgh ought have been allowed to go for the ball at the talked-about scrum but he made no major excuses. "We missed opportunities when we dropped the ball in critical areas," Laidlaw said. "We were tired, it was a tough game and Ulster sucked the life out of us."

Ulster S Terblanche; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, D Fitzpatrick (A Macklin, 65), J Muller (capt), D Tuohy, S Ferris, P Wannenburg, W Faloon.

Edinburgh T Brown; L Jones (J Thomson, 70), N de Luca, M Scott, T Visser; G Laidlaw (capt), M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross, G Gilchrist, S Cox, D Denton, N Talei, R Rennie (R Grant, 56).

Referee R Poite (France).

Ulster

Try: Wannenburg

Con: Pienaar

Pens: Pienaar 4

Edinburgh

Try: Pienaar

Con: Laidlaw

Pens: Laidlaw 4

News
Howard Marks who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer aged 69
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us