Attendances at Ulster’s home games in this season's RaboDirect PRO12 have reached record levels.
So far some 103,072 have poured through the Ravenhill turnstyles for PRO12 matches, making 2012-13 the best-ever in terms of support. A further 33,368 attended Ulster’s three Heineken Cup home games
And their season is not over yet; Ulster still have one more PRO12 league-stage fixture to go — against Cardiff Blues on May 3 — with hopefully a home semi-final to follow a week later.
Surprisingly the biggest PRO12 ‘gate’ thus far was not for the dates with Leinster or Munster, but for the game against Edinburgh on November 2 when 11,078 turned up to watch the leaders register their ninth successive win of the season, crushing the Scots 45-20.
And the 10,940 attendance against Leinster four days before Christmas was eclipsed in Ulster’s next home game, with 10,977 present to witness their 47-17 demolition of Scarlets in the first versus second battle on January 4.
Some 10,886 saw Ospreys become the first visiting side to win a PRO12 game this season at Ravenhill, which was amost 500 more than the attendance against Munster (10,397).
The only PRO12 fixtures to have been watched by fewer than 10,000 this season at Ravenhill have been against Glasgow Warriors on August 31 when 8,108 attended — making that the smallest home crowd of 2012-13 — and Newport Gwent Dragons on April 12 (9,647).
Ulster’s growing support is in keeping with that for the competition overall, with this season’s figures the best ever since it changed to a home and away format in 2003.
Last weekend saw crowds break through the one million mark, a full round earlier than last season, with seven games still to go. Ticket sales amongst the 12 participating teams have increased by 4.9% compared to this point last year.
David Jordan, the RaboDirect PRO12 tournament director, said: “This is the third season in a row that ticket sales have broken the one million mark, and each year we are reaching that landmark earlier in the competition.
“We have a mouthwatering final round of games yet to come, with five teams still in with a realistic chance of making the top four, and three battling it out to try and secure home advantage in the play-offs, it will be a nerve-racking end to the regular season.”
The order of those play-offs has now been confirmed: Play-Off 1 (1st v 4th) will take place on Friday, May 10 (7.45pm). Play-off 2 (2nd v 3rd) will be the following day, Saturday, May 11 (7.35pm). Venues will be confirmed once the qualifiers are finalised.