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RaboDirect Pro12: Leinster beat Ulster to return to final showdown
Ian Madigan settled a tight RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final in Leinster's favour with his late try handing them a 13-9 win over Ulster and set up a final clash with Glasgow.
Madigan, who replaced a groggy Brian O'Driscoll for the closing half-hour, unlocked the visitors' defence with an O'Driscoll-esque break to put Leinster in front for the first time with just eight minutes left to play.
Jimmy Gopperth converted and Leinster's defiant defence held the Ulstermen at bay in a frantic finish, with the result keeping alive O'Driscoll's dreams of a fourth PRO12 title.
The comeback win ensured that the retiring O'Driscroll - a league winner in 2001, 2008 and 2013 - will have his career swansong when Leinster host Glasgow Warriors in the May 31 final.
His long-time centre partner Gordon D'Arcy ended the first half in the sin-bin, with Ulster full value for their 6-0 interval lead thanks to two Paddy Jackson penalties.
Out of sorts
Out-of-sorts Leinster fell further behind following a third Jackson kick, but they came to the fore in the closing stages despite losing backs O'Driscoll, Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney in an attritional derby clash.
Leinster have been Ulster's knockout nemeses in recent seasons, defeating their provincial rivals in league and Heineken Cup finals and now two league semi-finals (2011 and 2014).
Incredibly, it will be Leinster's fifth straight league final appearance as they bid to become the first team to successfully retain the trophy. The RDS will host the decider for the fourth time in five seasons.
D'Arcy saw yellow for a late tackle on his Ireland colleague Bowe six minutes before the break, allowing Ulster to dominate up to the half-time whistle.
Snappy passing released Jared Payne and Craig Gilroy to take Ulster back into the Leinster 22 and Jackson punished a Reddan offside with the last kick of the half.
The second period burst into life with strong carries from Trimble and Healy, D'Arcy's return briefly steadying the Leinster ship as the jinking Gilroy grew in influence.
There was concern for O'Driscoll who was left prone after an awkward tackle on Henderson. The record Irish caps holder received a rapturous reception as he was replaced by Madigan.
A frustrating night for Leinster's centre duo continued as D'Arcy came in from an offside position and Jackson mopped up with the three points. However, the Ulster out-half had to hobble off soon after with James McKinney - the match winner against Munster - coming on.
Despite the disruption, Matt O'Connor's men managed to turn the screw as Madigan was fed to burst in between McKinney and Payne and score the only try of the night. Gopperth nailed the important conversion from the left, leaving Ulster four points adrift.
Best and company threw the kitchen sink at the home side in the dying minutes, Payne being held up just short and two lineout mauls were also thwarted as Leinster's superior defence just about won out in the end.
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|Saturday 20th December|
|14:40||Glasgow Warriors vs Munster|
|17:15||Ospreys vs Ulster|
|Sunday 21st December|
|16:00||Dragons vs Zebre|
|Friday 26th December|
|14:05||Cardiff Blues vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|17:00||Munster vs Leinster|
|18:45||Ulster vs Connacht|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:40||Glasgow vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Ospreys vs Scarlets|
|Sunday 28th December|
|14:00||Zebre vs Treviso|
|Thursday 1st January|
|14:05||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues|
|17:00||Connacht vs Munster|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Zebre|
|14:40||Leinster vs Ulster|
|17:05||Scarlets vs Ospreys|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:35||Connacht vs Edinburgh|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:40||Cardiff Blues vs Leinster|
|15:00||Zebre vs Munster|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Ulster|
|16:00||Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Wednesday 14th January|
|TBC||Leinster vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Ulster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Friday 19th December|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 9 Scarlets|
|Edinburgh 48 - 0 Treviso|
|Leinster 21 - 11 Connacht|
|Sunday 30th November|
|Glasgow Warriors 19 - 15 Dragons|
|Saturday 29th November|
|Connacht 14 - 8 Scarlets|
|Leinster 18 - 12 Ospreys|
|Zebre 18 - 10 Edinburgh|
|Friday 28th November|
|Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 Treviso|
|Munster 21 - 20 Ulster|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff Blues|
|Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster|
|Friday 21st November|
|Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys|
|Connacht 43 - 3 Zebre|
|Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors|
|Dragons 12 - 38 Munster|
|Saturday 1st November|
|Ulster 23 - 6 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Scarlets 28 - 13 Zebre|
|Cardiff Blues 24 - 28 Munster|
|Friday 31st October|
|Ospreys 26 - 11 Connacht|
|Glasgow 17 - 9 Benetton Treviso|
|Leinster 33 - 8 Edinburgh|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com