Ulster reflect on Heineken Cup success
Ulster will face Leinster in this year’s Heineken Cup Final at Twickenham.
The final, which will be held on May 19, is the first All-Irish Final in the competition.
On Saturday evening, Ulster came away with a 22-19 victory over Edinburgh in the first semi-final.
Springbok Pedrie Wannenburg claimed Ulster’s only try, while his fellow South African team mate, Ruan Pienaar, added the remaining 17 points to secure the province’s first final spot since 1999.
In the second semi-final, Leinster were away to Clermont at the Stade Chabal Demas, and only for a heroic defensive effort in the closing stages, were able to keep their Heineken Cup dreams alive with a 19-15 win.
Whilst the current holders will be aiming to win an unprecedented three Heineken Cup titles in four years as well as becoming only the second club to win back-to-back titles; this is the first final Ulster will have reached for 13 years.
Since first winning the tournament in 1999, Ulster will be bidding to become the sixth club to win two or more titles.
Speaking after their historic win on Saturday, Andrew Trimble rated the game as one of his favourites in an Ulster shirt.
“That rates as my favourite moment in an Ulster shirt, by a long way. It was pretty special and now we have a Heineken Cup final to look forward too.
“I think we’ve always had belief. We were very aware ourselves of what we were capable of but now we’ve started to show that on the pitch… We showed the spirit that is in our team and what we are capable of. I think that spirit is going to take us a long way.”
Over 40,000 Ulster supporters made the trip to Dublin to cheer on their team and the winger described the “unbelieveable” atmosphere in the stadium.
“It was very unique. It’s not often we have the chance to fill the Aviva with Ulster supporters and playing for your club, playing for that white jersey means a massive amount to everyone in the squad and everyone who took the field today. To have that support out there was just amazing.”
Pedrie Wannenburg, who scored Ulster’s only try at the weekend, was very modest about his efforts during the game.
“It was a case of play it as you see it. The scrum went forward really fast and Ruan (Pienaar) was shouting ‘pick up, pick up and go’ and I just went for the line. It was just fortunate for me”.
Despite appearing in 10 club finals throughout his career, though Currie Cup and Super Rugby competition, Wannenburg admitted reaching the final of the Heineken Cup is a step closer to a dream come true.
“One of my dreams is to win a Heineken Cup. I was fortunate enough to win a couple of Currie Cups and a couple of Super 14 titles and this is right up there in terms of my whole career.
“It’s just an amazing feeling for us, some of the boys have waited 13 years for this and we’re the lucky ones, going to Twickenham for the final.”
A total of 45,147 supporters – mostly Ulster Rugby supporters – descended upon the Irish capital for the game and hooker Rory Best was incredibly grateful for the support from the “16th man”.
He said: “Getting to a Heineken Cup final is massive for Ulster Rugby, it’s massive for everyone in the changing room and the fans certainly played their part. The last two or three weeks, since beating Munster, everyone stops you in the street to say ‘See you at the Aviva’ or ‘Good luck at the Aviva’ and that’s what club rugby is all about, getting the community together and getting the whole province behind us. It is very special.”
And that special community was also in full force outside Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel on Saturday. The team emerged from the hotel just after 4pm on Saturday afternoon to a rapturous welcome from Ulster supporters who had gathered there to see them off on the short drive to the stadium.
“The scenes at the Shelbourne were wonderful. Young boys like Paddy Jackson at 20, Craig Gilroy at 21, they’ll never forget that, and even those who have been around, like Paddy (Wallace) and Nigel (Brady), that was easily the highlight of their Ulster career,” Best added.
We were able to catch the team leaving the hotel and there was an incredible buzz in the air. See our video below at the scenes which greeted the team as they boarded the bus!