RaboDirect Pro12: Leinster beat Ulster to return to final showdown
Last Updated: 17/05/14 10:35pm
Ian Madigan: Match winner for Leinster in Dublin
Ian Madigan settled a tight RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final in Leinster's favour with his late try handing them a 13-9 win over Ulster and set up a final clash with Glasgow.
Madigan, who replaced a groggy Brian O'Driscoll for the closing half-hour, unlocked the visitors' defence with an O'Driscoll-esque break to put Leinster in front for the first time with just eight minutes left to play.
Jimmy Gopperth converted and Leinster's defiant defence held the Ulstermen at bay in a frantic finish, with the result keeping alive O'Driscoll's dreams of a fourth PRO12 title.
The comeback win ensured that the retiring O'Driscroll - a league winner in 2001, 2008 and 2013 - will have his career swansong when Leinster host Glasgow Warriors in the May 31 final.
His long-time centre partner Gordon D'Arcy ended the first half in the sin-bin, with Ulster full value for their 6-0 interval lead thanks to two Paddy Jackson penalties.
Out of sorts
Out-of-sorts Leinster fell further behind following a third Jackson kick, but they came to the fore in the closing stages despite losing backs O'Driscoll, Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney in an attritional derby clash.
Leinster have been Ulster's knockout nemeses in recent seasons, defeating their provincial rivals in league and Heineken Cup finals and now two league semi-finals (2011 and 2014).
Incredibly, it will be Leinster's fifth straight league final appearance as they bid to become the first team to successfully retain the trophy. The RDS will host the decider for the fourth time in five seasons.
D'Arcy saw yellow for a late tackle on his Ireland colleague Bowe six minutes before the break, allowing Ulster to dominate up to the half-time whistle.
Snappy passing released Jared Payne and Craig Gilroy to take Ulster back into the Leinster 22 and Jackson punished a Reddan offside with the last kick of the half.
The second period burst into life with strong carries from Trimble and Healy, D'Arcy's return briefly steadying the Leinster ship as the jinking Gilroy grew in influence.
There was concern for O'Driscoll who was left prone after an awkward tackle on Henderson. The record Irish caps holder received a rapturous reception as he was replaced by Madigan.
A frustrating night for Leinster's centre duo continued as D'Arcy came in from an offside position and Jackson mopped up with the three points. However, the Ulster out-half had to hobble off soon after with James McKinney - the match winner against Munster - coming on.
Despite the disruption, Matt O'Connor's men managed to turn the screw as Madigan was fed to burst in between McKinney and Payne and score the only try of the night. Gopperth nailed the important conversion from the left, leaving Ulster four points adrift.
Best and company threw the kitchen sink at the home side in the dying minutes, Payne being held up just short and two lineout mauls were also thwarted as Leinster's superior defence just about won out in the end.
Fri 24th Apr
Edinburgh37 - 0Zebre
Ulster26 - 10Leinster
Sat 25th Apr
Connacht13 - 31Glasgow Warriors
Cardiff Blues23 - 31Ospreys
Munster30 - 19Treviso
Dragons10 - 29Scarlets
Fri 8th May
Dragons0 - 0Edinburgh
Leinster0 - 0Treviso
Ospreys0 - 0Glasgow Warriors
Sat 9th May
Ulster0 - 0Munster
Zebre0 - 0Connacht
Sun 10th May
Scarlets0 - 0Cardiff Blues
Sat 16th May
Cardiff Blues0 - 0Zebre
Connacht0 - 0Ospreys
Edinburgh0 - 0Leinster
Glasgow Warriors0 - 0Ulster
Munster0 - 0Dragons
Treviso0 - 0Scarlets
RaboDirect PRO12 2013/14 play-off semi-final
Glasgow held on for a 16-15 victory over Munster to become the first Scottish team to make the RaboDirect Pro12 final.
Leinster play in a fifth successive home play-off on Saturday, with rivals Ulster traveling to the RDS.
Glasgow Warriors host Munster at Scotstoun on Friday with a place in this season's RaboDirect PRO12 final up for grabs.