Pro12 final: Ulster 18-24 Leinster
ULSTER (6) 18
- Pienaar 6
LEINSTER (16) 24
- Jennings, Heaslip
- Sexton 4
Leinster saw off a spirited challenge from Irish interprovincial rivals Ulster to secure the Pro12 title after a fiercely contested final in Dublin.
A Shane Jennings try helped Leinster to a 16-6 half-time lead, while Jamie Heaslip touched down after the break.
Jonathan Sexton kicked four penalties and a conversion for the victors, with Ruan Pienaar successful with five penalty attempts for his side.
The result gave departing Leinster coach Joe Schmidt a winning send-off.
The game was the New Zealander's final one in charge before taking over the reins with the Ireland national team.
Ulster came into the game aiming to secure their first silverware since winning the Celtic League in 2006, while Leinster looked to add the Pro12 title to the Amlin Challenge Cup crown they clinched by defeating Stade Francais last weekend.
Schmidt's side suffered a setback before the game with full-back Rob Kearney reporting a slightly tight hamstring in the pre-match warm-up, so Isa Nacewa took his place at full-back and Andrew Conway came into the starting line-up on the wing.
Both sets of supporters in the capacity 18,500 crowd created a colourful and noisy atmosphere and a cacophony of noise greeted the players as they strode onto the RDS pitch.
With the wind at their backs, Leinster were quickest out of the blocks and man-of-the-match Jennings rumbled over for a try in the third minute.
Skipper Leo Cullen collected a line-out throw from Richardt Strauss and after the pack drove for the line, Jennings spiralled away from the Ulster defence and grounded the ball to give his side an early lead.
Sexton made no mistake with the conversion and added a further three points with a straightforward penalty five minutes later.
Ulster began to pressurise their Irish provincial rivals and Robbie Diack looked set to touch down in the 17th minute, but was held up as he crossed the line following a fine move involving the back-line.
The flanker opted to pirouette and come back inside when diving low for the corner looked to be the better option with his opponents' defences breached.
Pienaar opened Ulster's account on 24 minutes, knocking the ball between the posts for his first penalty of the match, but Sexton, playing his final game for his province before moving to France to join Racing Metro, was unsuccessful with his second penalty attempt on the half hour.
The Ireland fly-half made amends by landing three points from long range four minutes later, but Pienaar replied with his second penalty soon after to reduce the deficit to seven points again.
Ulster were repeatedly being penalised for infringements at the breakdown and Sexton knocked over another penalty following the northerners' latest bout of indiscipline.
The constant flow of penalties continued after the interval, with Diack sent to the sin-bin after 44 minutes for being off his feet at the ruck, Sexton executing the penalty successfully.
Two minutes later, Leinster were also temporarily reduced to 14 men when Nacewa, making his final appearance for the former Heineken Cup holders, was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Paddy Jackson, who was headed for the line after making a piercing run.
Pienaar kicked the resulting penalty between the uprights and when the Springbok added two further penalties in quick succession, the momentum seemed to be with Mark Anscombe's resurgent side.
An increasingly bruising encounter was being played at a frantic pace and it was Irish captain Jamie Heaslip who barged his way over the line for a hugely important try just after the game had entered its final quarter.
That score moved his team nine points ahead and Sexton was just off-target with his conversion effort which strayed agonisingly wide of the posts.
Pienaar defied the pressure to narrow the margin to six with a sweetly struck long-range penalty from just inside the Leinster half in the 69th minute.
The South African's inspirational performance with the boot raised hopes of a third win for Ulster over their interprovincial rivals in the Pro12 this season but Leinster saw off a late onslaught from their rivals to secure victory.
Ulster: J Payne, A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding, T Bowe, P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (cpt), D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams.
Replacements: C Black for Court (73), I Henderson for Diack (64).
Not used: R Herring, D Fitzpatrick, M McComish, P Marshall, M Allen, P Nelson.
Leinster: I Nacewa, F McFadden, B O'Driscoll, I Madigan, A Conway, J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (cpt), D Toner,K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.
Replacements: S Cronin for Strauss (29), J McGrath for Healy (77), J Hagan for Ross (75), Q Roux for Toner (73).
Not used: R Ruddock, J Cooney, A Goodman, A Conway.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)