Leinster’s remarkable record against provincial rivals Ulster continued with a hard-fought 16-8 win at a rain-soaked Ravenhill in their RaboDirect Pro12 encounter.
In poor conditions for flowing rugby the difference between the two sides was the boot of Jonathan Sexton with the Irish international out-half kicking 11 points to add to Kevin McLaughlin’s seventh minute try.
Johann Muller touched over for the hosts in the first half for Ulster’s only try of the game, and his first for the province, but the Northern side will be left to rue missed kicks by Ruan Pienaar which means that barring a miracle Ulster will not be joining Leinster and probably Munster in the semi-final play-offs of the competition.
In truth though the game highlighted once again the superior strength in depth the European champions have in comparison to most other clubs in Europe with Leinster much better positioned to cope with the absence of key players than Ulster were.
Leinster had gone into this game having only lost one of their previous 17 encounters with Ulster and looking to become the first Irish side to win every single game against their three Irish opponents in a regular league season and it didn’t take them long to serve notice of their intentions here.
On seven minutes Kevin McLaughlin powered his way over the line after some good play by the team in blue and Sexton adding the extras to give Leinster an early advantage.
It didn’t take the Ulstermen too long to get back into the game though as captain Muller touched over after a powerful driving run for a controversial try.
Muller appeared to lose control of the ball just after touching down but on his first movement it wasn’t clear whether the ball was grounded before the line and as the ball skidded sideways onto the line, the touch judge, after lengthy deliberations, decided that the Ulster skipper had enough downward pressure on the ball to award the try.
While Pienaar narrowly missed the conversion, Sexton then exchanged penalties with him before adding a second right on half-time to give Leinster a 13-8 lead at the break.
Pienaar missed a couple of opportunities for Ulster in the second half, with one coming back off the upright and when Sexton dropped over to make it 16-8 Leinster never looked like losing the game.
The second half saw little by way of attacking threat with both defences on top and the Leinster machine goes marching on towards, they hope, a unique Heineken Cup and RaboDirect Pro12 double.