Ulster ended 13 years of hurt on Saturday evening when they defeated Edinburgh 22-19 to reach the Heineken Cup final.
The boot of scrum half Ruan Pienaar proved to be the decisive factor with the scrum half kicking 15 of Ulster’s points in a kicking masterclass.
In a game which started at a helter skelter pace it was Pienaar that got the first score of the game with an excellent penalty after some great work by the Ulster pack led by captain Rory Best.
Edinburgh came to play and attacked Ulster in the opening exchanges. Lee Jones in particular stood out as the Scottish outfit looked to run the ball whenever the opportunity arose.
That attacking attitude paid off with fly half Greg Laidlaw kicking them level after 10 minutes.
The game continued at it’s relentless pace and it was Ulster that grabbed the first try of the game in the 14th minute.
A huge, powerful Ulster scrum gave the Irish province the platform and it was number 8 Pedrie Wannanburg that picked and drove from a few meters out and there was nothing that the Edinburgh defence could do to stop him crashing over the line and sending the 40,000 plus Ulster fans into raptures.
That clinical score from Ulster seemed to pour confidence into team and they continued to attack Edinburgh with the likes of Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy and Paddy Wallace all looking dangerous with ball in hand, along with Pienaar who kept the Ulster scoreboard ticking over, ruthlessly punishing any mistakes that Edinburgh made.
Edinburgh matched Ulster however and they had a major chance to make an impact on the game when Ulster’s fullback Stephen Terblanche was sinned binned midway through the first half for swinging a punch, which looked a soft call, at ruck time.
That ten minute period proved to be one of the most crucial as Ulster managed to hold Edinburgh scoreless while Terblanche was keeping warm on the sidelines and Ulster went in 13-9 up at the break.
The pace of the game refused to let up and five minutes after the restart Edinburgh brought the score to within one point with another beautifully taken penalty.
Ulster answered back with Pienaar leading the charge, sparking Ulster back into life that started a 10 minute period where it looked like it was only a matter of time before Ulster would cross the white wash again.
However Edinburgh refused to be moved and they managed to keep themselves in the game coming into the final quarter.
Brian McLaughlin’s side however refused to be denied and it was Man of the match Pienaar that guided Ulster through the final period with three top class kicks in the final 20 minutes.
Even a late Jim Thompson try couldn’t stop Ulster who now await the winners of Clermont and Leinster who meet in the second semi-final on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking after the game a delighted Brian McLaughlin said “We are delighted to be where we are. It was an exceptionally tough game. Edinburgh threw everything at us but we took our chances in the first half. We were ruthless in the first 40.
“What really pleased me today was the set scrum. All credit to the eight forwards, the scrummaged exceptionally well.”