Ulster can't take foot off gas: Kiss
Ulster 30 - Leinster 6
Ulster took a giant stride towards the PRO12 play-offs with a commanding 30-6 victory over Leinster at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday, but Director of Rugby Les Kiss says the memorable performance will count for little should his side slip up against Ospreys in the season's final weekend.
Paddy Jackson, on a day when Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton was his opposite number, was again in supreme form and provided his side's third and final score while his half-back partner Ruan Pienaar was also central.
The pack were dogged in a scrum that creaked without capitulating and Kiss' tactic of deploying two openside flankers in his back-row proved effective. To a degree, Leinster were the architects of their own downfall as a yellow card in each half saw Ulster fail to capitalise on the first but seize control following the second.
Despite the notable win, which could have yielded a bonus point had a late pass gone to hand, Kiss was keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
"There were some really good things but our defence was a bit passive, we could have just stepped it up a few times," he said. "There are little areas we were not quite happy with but I think generally to have a complete performance was pleasing."
As the players completed the customary lap of honour to mark the season's final home game, the Australian's thoughts had already switched to next week and the Ospreys.
With Scarlets picking up the bonus point win against Newport, the Welsh side, who play Munster to conclude their slate, are only one point behind Ulster and could snatch the final play-off place should the province falter.
"This competition just keeps throwing up surprises, but I think from a momentum side of things it is important that we do not lose sight of it," said Kiss. "We've put a couple of games together but we need to nail this one next week to actually roll into the final stages."
Ulster, who lost wing Craig Gilroy to a virus before the game, began brightly and secured the first points with 10 minutes gone when Jackson knocked over a penalty after Luke McGrath was caught blocking off an Andrew Trimble kick chase. Then came the most controversial incident.
With Pienaar on the ball, his dummy saw him break through and chip ahead for the line. His chase was interrupted by a bodycheck from Rob Kearney although it appeared that either Luke McGrath or the guilty party's brother Dave could have gotten back.
George Clancy's decision, however, was a penalty try and a yellow card. Clearly disagreeing with the decision, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen seemingly accused Pienaar of making too much of the incident.
Cullen said: "I thought there was cover with Dave Kearney, and a penalty try was harsh. It was a bit dramatic from Pienaar, and he seemed to be okay."
When pressed on whether he was suggesting gamesmanship from a player hardly known for such acts, he added: "I can't suggest that. He was down for a long time."
Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey's view of the incident was clear cut.
"It's a definite penalty try," he said. "He (Rob Kearney) moved into him when it was chipped over. It's cynical."
Leinster managed well without their two-time Lion, responding with a Sexton penalty before adding another three points between his return and the half-time whistle.
A break from Rory Scholes was interrupted by an off the ball tug from substitute Luke Fitzgerald, the centre subsequently sent to the bin.
This time Ulster were more ruthless, a lineout move seeing Jackson and Luke Marshall take advantage of the extra man to send Jared Payne over for the score.
A penalty to make it a three-score game came in the final 10 minutes before Jackson capped off his fine individual showing with a lengthy intercept score.
Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble, L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Scholes; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best (captain), R Lutton, P Browne, F van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Henry, S Reidy.
Replacements: R Herring (for Best, 67), K McCall (for Black, 50), A Warwick (for Lutton, 67), R Diack (for Browne, 63), R Wilson (for Henry, 55), P Marshall (for Pienaar, 73), S Olding (for McCloskey, 55), D Cave (for L Marshall, 73).
Leinster: R Kearney; I Nacewa (captain), G Ringrose, B Te'o, D Kearney; J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, R Strauss, T Furlong; D Toner, H Triggs; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Heaslip
Replacements: S Cronin (for Strauss, 50), P Dooley (for McGrath, 70), M Ross (for Furlong, 50) ,M Kearney (for Triggs, 52), J Murphy (for van der Flier, 40), E Reddan (for L McGrath, 50), I Madigan (for D Kearney, 72), L Fitzgerald (for Ringrose, 50)
Referee: George Clancy
STAR MAN: Paddy Jackson
MATCH RATING: 9/10