European dream slips through Ulster's hands as Leicester Tigers roar back
LEICESTER 33-24 ULSTER
Ulster were denied a place in the Challenge Cup Final after allowing a 17-6 lead slip to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
Ulster dominated the first half as they built on an early trade of penalties to dominant collisions and get quick ruck ball. Not long after Tom Young was sent to the sin-bin and Leicester almost begging for another yellow-card, Iain Henderson powered over for Ulster's first try.
Ulster were soon over for a second try, out wide left, as Billy Burns took advantage of rapid ball and a big overlap to pin the ears and dive over. George Ford landed a 48-metre penalty but Ulster were winning all the big moments and went in 17-6 at the break.
The Leicester response, by Steve Borthwick, was to make some changes in his pack. It looked to be working out, early in the second half, but Ulster were first hit by the crucial loss of John Cooney.
The scrumhalf, who had looked excellent up until that point, was badly clocked by a swinging forearm from Nemani Nadolo and dropped in a heap. The Fijian winger was not penalised for the collision as Cooney was had dipped low for the ball, but the loss of the No.9 did seem to hurt the visitors.
Leicester sensed a change in momentum and it was Nadolo breaking tackles that set them up for a try-scoring chance that No.8 Jasper Wiese converted. Ford made it a one-point game, six minutes later, and Leicester were ahead after 54 minutes when Ellis Genge crossed the white-wash, out on the left wing.
When Ford slotted a drop goal, on 61 minutes, Tigers had scored 20 unanswered points and it was Ulster that had little if no answers to what was facing them.
That was until the 68th minute, when Nick Timoney played his hand.
The Ulster No.8 put on the afterburners after Stuart McCloskey slipped him through a dog-legged gap in the Leicester backline. His pace got him past three defenders but he still needed to stretch to get the ball down and make it a contest again. Mike Lowry, on for Burns, slotted the conversion.
The killer, though, was delivered by George Ford. His superb pass helped tee up Guy Porter for a try in the corner and he then stepped up to nail a conversion that made it a two-score game.
Our Man of the Match: George Ford (Leicester Tigers)