So there you have it. Another big game with Leinster and normal service followed with another trophy staying south.
While Ulster watched Leinster celebrate, with Rob Kearney helping lift the trophy, this time it didn’t really feel like one that got away.
It was inescapable really. Ulster had thrown a shot at it and caused the men in blue some discomfort but Leinster had won this final without having to be at their finest.
The endgame summed it all up as Ulster’s first final in seven years limped over the line. Ulster kicked a penalty towards the corner and maybe might have rallied their battered selves to have a shot at making double figures even with the clock in red.
But Devin Toner stole the lineout from Sam Carter and James Tracy jogged into touch with the ball.
Leinster had done it for the third time running but they simply hadn’t been discomforted enough by Dan McFarland’s battling side.
Oh no, Leinster just weren’t going to be denied their moment though their celebrations were pretty muted if you consider what might have happened if Ulster had been the ones to lift the trophy into the night air after 14 years of waiting.
Even though the PRO14 needed an Ulster victory, never mind the fact that a trophy has been so long in overdue at the Kingspan, it wasn’t to be was it?
The southern province claimed their third straight title and have pretty much transformed the league into their own plaything, a means of winning game and collecting silverware while their gaze is most intent on triumphing in Europe.
And credit to them. The quality Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster have at their disposal – their unbeaten run stretching further – is streets ahead of the rest with Garry Ringrose, Caelan Doris, Andrew Porter and James Lowe showing up so to actually beat them takes something very special as Saracens will know only too well ahead of next weekend’s European quarter-final.
And what of Ulster then? They now must regroup and attempt to take their ‘A’ game to Toulouse to try and topple the French this day week. Maybe that was why Marcell Coetzee was spared further action after the 47th minute but, then again, he hadn’t quite looked himself prior to his leaving.
The fact is that Ulster has thrown everything at the first half. Nothing wrong with that but Leinster were never going to do an Edinburgh and present them with this game.
An unpalatable truth is that Ulster caused Leinster some stress but couldn’t back it up with the accuracy and discipline required to really put it up to the PRO14 champions.
The cracks had begun to show towards the end of the opening half with Ulster showing a propensity for giving away penalties but they only trailed 10-5 when the sides changed ends.
And that’s when Leinster showed their standing. An early Ross Byrne penalty was quickly followed up by Billy Burns’ throwing a pretty ambitious pass in Coetzee’s direction. Meat and drink to Robbie Henshaw.
At 20-5 that was that and for all Ulster’s defensive efforts they were now expending all their energy just stemming the waves of blue attackers.
Still, while they were in it, there was always some hope.
Ulster just looked that bit sharper and switched on at the start with Alan O’Connor – his lovely pass helped create the game’s opening score – making an early smash on his home province and then we began to see Leinster making handling errors and, well, looking a bit sloppy.
That was an open invitation to stake a claim for this trophy and after Stuart McCloskey barrelled down the right the ball was moved left and James Hume’s arcing run took him round Kieran Kelleher and he hurtled through James Lowe to roll over the line with Hugo Keenan hanging on to him.
Game on. Mind you the challengers could have done with the two points but Burns missed from a difficult angle – would Mr Cooney have made it?
But you just knew that the champions would hit back.
They did 10 minutes later but already the blue lineout was beginning to shows signs that all wasn’t well. Still they threw it to the front for Lowe’s score which was taken so well after Jamison Gibson-Park’s flat pass.
Ross Byrne managed the conversion to nudge them in front but then Ulster ought to have made more of Leinster’s lineout issues but instead McFarland’s men began to make the errors though, in fairness, they only surrendered the three points which also demonstrated how the blue shirts’ were no longer uber-confident of their own lineout.
Ulster had no such issues but, critically, couldn’t visit the scoreboard with Burns’ low pass to Hume being knocked on in one pretty pivotal-looking moment.
Still, 10-5 at half-time. We could dream that something might happen.
But no, this is Leinster after all.