Published Sunday, 08 April 2012
Craig Gilroy of Ulster breaks clear to score the first try against Munster (© Getty)
Brian McLaughlin's side turned in a stellar display to secure a 22-16 win over the two-time European Champions and claim a place in the last four for the first time since 1999.
The bulk of Ulster's points came in the first half with Craig Gilroy claiming a superb individual try to help the visitors to a 19-0 lead.
Ruan Pienaar had earlier kicked two penalties from inside his own half, and also added the extras following Gilroy's amazing score before edging Ulster further ahead with another kick two minutes later.
Ian Humphreys then added a brilliant long-range drop-goal before Munster eventually began to find their rhythm.
The hosts struck back before the break when Simon Zebo went over, and Ronan O'Gara added a late penalty to narrow the gap to 10 points at the break.
Munster continued to turn the screw in the second half and O'Gara added two further penalties as the hosts piled on the pressure, but Ulster's defence held firm to clinch a remarkable victory.
McLaughlin described the win as probably the biggest day in his rugby career.
Unbelievable. It was a big highlight in my career, probably the biggest day in my life in rugby terms.
Ulster Coach Brian McLaughlin
"Ruan's place-kicking was exemplary and Craig Gilroy's try, to be 19-0 up after 25 minutes was a dream," McLaughlin said. "We played brilliantly. It was our game plan personified.
"All credit to the guys on the pitch, they were magnificent today."
"It is also important to mention the impact and energy we gleaned from our fans in the stadium. The support was outstanding."
He added: "Today is the culmination of three years' really hard work. We have been emphasising the whole way through the importance of getting Ulster up the ladder and getting to that top table.
"We are not there yet. We are under no illusions. Edinburgh showed in their quarter-final win over Toulouse what they can do and it is all set up for another magnificent semi-final."
The result sees Ulster progress to the semi-finals of European club rugby's elite competition for only the second time in their history, with their last-four date with Edinburgh taking place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday 28 April.
The quarter-final success is all the more remarkable given the fact that McLaughlin did not use any replacements, and injury doubt Stephen Ferris showed immense will to last the full 80 minutes.
Ulster captain Johann Muller described the result as a "special" victory.
"It was a special effort from everyone, not just players- and management-wise, everyone," said the South African lock.
"We had some time to prepare for this. We knew it was going to be extremely physical when you are playing a champion side like Munster.
"The start was something special. Hats off to the guys, to make sure we got the victory, is a special thing and a special victory for everyone."
© UTV News