Friday 15 December 2017

Pienaar brings it home for Ulster

Ruan guides Ulster to top

Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar converts a penalty during his side’s victory over Leicester at Welford Road last night
Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar converts a penalty during his side’s victory over Leicester at Welford Road last night
Ruan Pienaar of Ulster
Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

An astonishing display by Ruan Pienaar last night saw Ulster finish the pool stages of the Heineken Cup with a 100 per cent record and secure a home quarter-final against Saracens in the Heineken Cup.

The scrum-half scored all of his side's points in Ulster's hard fought 19-22 win against Leicester at Welford Road yesterday.

Leicester were 10 points clear at one point in the second half, after the sides had gone in level at the break, but two penalties and an opportunistic try from Pienaar rescued the game for Ulster. The winning penalty in the 70th minute, which Pienaar converted from inside his own half, was the first time the visitors led in the game.

His try, 11 minutes earlier, came about after he charged down an attempted clearance by Leicester's Toby Flood. "It's something I like to do, to put pressure on the opposite kickers," said Pienaar. "You don't always get to them and thankfully I got to that one. The ball managed to slow down just before the line and I managed to put it down."

"We knew it was going to need an 80-minute performance," said hooker Rory Best of the epic battle.

"It was a massive performance and even when we went that 10 points down, there was massive belief in the players. We have the quality to come back even in tough places this. It is a testament to the character of these lads."

Toulouse's failure to secure an expected bonus point in their laboured win over Zebre yesterday means that a five-point haul for Munster against Edinburgh this afternoon will guarantee them a home quarter-final, possibly against the French kingpins.

Leinster, following their win over the Ospreys at the RDS on Friday night, seem certain to be facing a trip to France, possibly against Clermont or Toulon. Clermont entertain misfiring Racing Metro at home, and the outcome of that game will probably determine Leinster's fate.

At Allianz Park, Connacht slumped to an 11-try hammering by Saracens. The win secured the English side one of the best two runners-up slots.

Connacht manager Pat Lam expressed his disappointment at his side's performance.

"We know they're a top Premiership side but we were very disappointing as we missed tackles and dropped passes."

Those sentiments were echoed by Connacht full-back Gavin Duffy. "I thought these days were behind us but we were pulled round and bullied. The scoreboard doesn't lie and it was a really poor day for us."

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