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Leinster Rugby will be looking to follow up their domination of Heineken Champions Cup Pool A this season with a third EPCR knockout victory over interprovincial rivals Ulster Rugby in Dublin on Saturday evening in the Round of 16.
The four-time winners defeated Ulster in the 2012 final and 2019 quarter-final, and have shown formidable form in the competition so far this campaign, amassing 184 points during their four pool matches as they wracked up bonus-point victories in all four, the only team to do so.
In contrast, Ulster squeezed into the Round of 16 after finishing eighth in Pool B following just one victory in their four pool matches. A try bonus point in their Round 4 win over Sale Sharks proved vital.
The match kicks off at 5.30pm UK and Irish time at the Aviva Stadium, and can be watched on RTE, SuperSport, BT Sport, beIN SPORTS and FloRugby.
Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen: “I think it will be an amazing atmosphere and occasion for Irish rugby, because it’s club rugby, provincial rugby. It’s all that’s good about the game here in many ways and that lays the platform for the international game really. Obviously for us, the club game lays the platform for our game, so it will hopefully be a great showcase for Irish rugby.”
Ulster Rugby assistant coach Dan Soper: “They’re a very good side, obviously full of internationals and they will be ticking. They have threats, but we are looking forward to it. There’s nothing better than Champions Cup nights, so it will be a big one.”
And it was MIGHTY close 👀
Will history repeat itself this weekend? pic.twitter.com/HOWiN7xide
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) March 30, 2023
- Josh van der Flier is the top try-scorer in the Heineken Champions Cup so far with five.
- Andrew Porter is the most penalised player in this season’s tournament, having conceded eight penalties. Four of those have been for scrum offences.
- Caelan Doris has made more try assists than any other player with five.
- Jacob Stockdale conceded five turnovers in Ulster’s Round 4 match against Sale Sharks – as many as any other player in the tournament.
- Alan O’Connor has made the most clearouts in the Heineken Champions Cup, dismissing 29 threats to Ulster’s ball at the ruck.
- Ulster have scored the fewest tries (seven) and points (54) of any team remaining in the tournament.
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Leinster powered into the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals after seeing off a dogged Ulster Rugby side 30-15 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.
Last season’s finalists needed to work hard for victory, notching tries through Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park and Andrew Porter while Ross Byrne added 15 points from the tee.
The win sees them set up a quarter-final at home to Leicester Tigers next weekend.
Ulster were well in contention for the first hour as James Hume and Rob Herring crossed, but yellow cards for Hume and Harry Sheridan left them with too much to do over the closing stages.
Tactical kicking littered the first half amid torrential rain in Dublin and try-scoring opportunities were at a premium for the first quarter of an hour.
Ulster repelled a couple of Leinster attacks and took the lead through a penalty from scrum-half Doak, but the hosts hit back through fly-half Byrne on 11 minutes.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 1, 2023
Leinster were unable to get their lineout shifting in the opening exchanges, but it produced their first try when it clicked on 20 minutes, lock Baird powering over from close range.
Byrne converted before dispatching a long-range penalty 10 minutes later to extend Leinster’s lead to 10 points.
Ulster responded in superb fashion, though, as fly-half Billy Burns landed a cross-field kick in the arms of cente Hume, who stepped inside to finish brilliantly.
Doak couldn’t add the extras and Ulster conceded a penalty directly from the restart, but Byrne was off target on that occasion.
The Leinster pressure built for a long spell at the end of the first half, but they could only come away with another three points from the boot of Byrne after No.8 Jack Conan had a try ruled out by the TMO.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 1, 2023
Ulster’s ill-discipline began to cost them at the start of the second half and as the penalty count rose, Hume was sent to the sin bin.
Leinster would notch their second try on 53 minutes – moments after Hume was shown yellow – as scrum-half Gibson-Park picked his way over under the posts after scooping up a loose ball.
Byrne’s conversion moved Leinster into a 23-8 lead, but the 14 men of Ulster battled back as they constructed a rumbling lineout for hooker Herring to plant down, replacement scrum-half John Cooney slotting the extras.
But Leinster managed another score before Hume’s sin bin expired as prop Porter burrowed over from close range despite some heroic defence from Ulster, Byrne’s third conversion of the game restoring a 15-point gap on 63 minutes.
The game ultimately slipped away from Ulster and their hopes of an improbable late turnaround took a hit when replacement lock Harry Sheridan was yellow-carded for a high tackle with 12 minutes to play.