Ruan Pienaar kicked 17 points in Ulster’s 22-19 victory over Edinburgh to help guide his side to the European Cup final.
Pienaar’s goal-kicking was criticised when he was asked to do the job at Test level but he has become Ulster’s go-to man in the biggest games, kicking consistently accurately. Furthermore his all-round play was outstanding. With so much talk about Fourie du Preez’s return to the Test fold, we have forgotten about the gem we have in the former Sharks man. Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer would do well to include him in his squad for the England series.
Edinburgh dominated large potions of the first half and will lament their inability to take advantage of Stefan Terblanche’s sin binning. Ulster’s defence in light of their disadvantage was inspiring but Edinburgh will look back with regret on fundamental handling errors and poor decision making in the red zone.
Ruan Pienaar opened the scoring with a sixth minute penalty but Greig Laidlaw nailed two of his own to send the visitors ahead. But Pedrie Wannenburg crossed to chalk for the Irish side after a period of sustained pressure and Pienaar converted then added a penalty for a comfortable lead.
Edinburgh were roused to respond and did so with Laidlaw landing two three pointers either side of the break. The return was acceptable but the Scots would have known they missed a golden opportunity with Terblanche sidelined.
But Ulster found another gear and Edinburgh simply could not counter the pressure they were able to create through their erosive phase play and powerful scrummaging. Pienaar drilled three kicks through the poles for a 19-12 lead. Edinburgh became increasingly expansive as the match progressed. But Ulster were accurate, brutal and patient in defence and never looked like being breached. Pienaar kicked his fifth penalty of the afternoon with four minutes to spare to seal a memorable victory and a trip to Twickenham.