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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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|Friday 6th March|
|19:35||Cardiff Blues vs Connacht|
|19:35||Glasgow Warriors vs Zebre|
|Saturday 7th March|
|14:40||Ospreys vs Munster|
|17:15||Scarlets vs Leinster|
|18:00||Treviso vs Edinburgh|
|Sunday 8th March|
|16:00||Dragons vs Ulster|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:35||Leinster vs Glasgow|
|19:35||Ulster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 28th March|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Ospreys vs Zebre|
|14:40||Scarlets vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Munster vs Connacht|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Cardiff Blues|
|19:35||Benetton Treviso vs Ospreys|
|Saturday 11th April|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Munster|
|TBC||Zebre vs Scarlets|
|14:40||Connacht vs Ulster|
|Sunday 12th April|
|16:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Leinster|
|Friday 24th April|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Zebre|
|19:35||Ulster vs Leinster|
|Saturday 25th April|
|TBC||Munster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Cardiff Blues vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Scarlets|
|TBC||Connacht vs Glasgow|
|Saturday 9th May|
|TBC||Ulster vs Munster|
|Sunday 1st March|
|Connacht 53 - 5 Treviso|
|Zebre 23 - 17 Dragons|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 15 Edinburgh|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Munster 22 - 10 Glasgow Warriors|
|Friday 27th February|
|Ospreys 9 - 9 Leinster|
|Ulster 25 - 20 Scarlets|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|Dragons 25 - 30 Connacht|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Glasgow 19 - 16 Ospreys|
|Scarlets 25 - 25 Munster|
|Friday 20th February|
|Edinburgh 17 - 20 Ulster|
|Leinster 29 - 8 Zebre|
|Benetton Treviso 40 - 24 Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Leinster 14 - 16 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Zebre 10 - 54 Glasgow|
|Scarlets 32 - 14 Connacht|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Munster 33 - 16 Cardiff Blues|
|Friday 13th February|
|Edinburgh 24 - 16 Ospreys|
|Ulster 43 - 3 Benetton Treviso|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com