Pienaar inspires Ulster rout
Dublin - South African star Ruan Pienaar kicked 21 points as Ulster routed former double champions Leicester 41-7 on Friday, putting his side on the brink of European Cup quarter-final qualification.
The bonus-point win gave Ulster 19 points on top of Pool Four and left 2001 and 2002 winners Leicester virtually out of contention for a last-eight place after suffering a record defeat.
"We are out. We will be third in our group. We are done," said Leicester boss Richard Cockerill.
Ulster's South African skipper Johann Muller praised his team.
"That was definitely one of our best performances in terms of taking our chances and the passion we showed," he said.
"But it doesn't mean anything unless we get some points in Clermont (in the last round of games next week). We have to make sure we do what we have to do."
Ulster, the 1999 champions, were off to a flying start at Ravenhill, racing into 10-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes with winger Andrew Trimble diving into the corner for the opening try with scrum-half Pienaar adding the extras.
Ice-cool Pienaar then added a penalty but Leicester's veteran skipper Geordan Murphy cut the deficit on the quarter-hour mark.
England scrum-half Ben Youngs was the architect with a clever, delayed pass which sucked in three Ulster defenders and allowed 34-year-old Murphy to sprint through the gap and score his 24th career try in the competition.
Billy Twelvetrees converted for 10-7 to the home side.
But Leicester were then penalised at the breakdown on the halfway line and Pienaar booted a monster, long-distance penalty for a 13-7 advantage.
Pienaar, a 51-cap international, then set up Trimble for a carbon-copy of his opening try just before the interval with the Irish international winger shrugging off the muscular attentions of Alesana Tuilagi to touch down, tight in the corner.
This time Pienaar was off target with a tricky conversion, but Ulster were still in front 18-7 at the break.
Twelvetrees, deputising for the injured Toby Flood, missed a simple opportunity to cut the deficit in the second minute of the second half when he cracked his penalty against a post.
Pienaar then showed Twelvetrees how to do it by hitting two successive penalties -- awarded for hands in the ruck and for holding onto the ball -- for a 24-7 advantage.
Leicester's discipline and shape continued to disintegrate and Pienaar again popped over a penalty for a 27-7 lead before the English side lost replacement prop Dan Cole to the sin-bin for arguing with the referee.
Ulster's third try also had a significant South African stamp on it when Pienaar, full-back Stefan Terblanche and No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg all combined to send Craig Gilroy over.
Pienaar hit the conversion before the home side secured the bonus point, eight minutes from time when replacement scrum-half Paul Marshall took a tap penalty and sprinted away for the score.
Not surprisingly, Pienaar, now at outside-half, added the conversion.
In Pool Two, Edinburgh stayed in contention for a first quarter-final place in eight seasons when replacement fly-half Phil Godman kicked a last-minute drop goal to secure a 27-24 win over Racing Metro.
The win gave Edinburgh a four-point lead over Cardiff who face London Irish on Saturday.
"The drop goal was hopeful but I'm happy for Phil who has just returned after six months out," said Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley.
Ospreys clinched a six-try bonus-point 44-17 win over Treviso in Pool Five to maintain their slim hopes of making the knockout round.
Pool leaders Saracens, who have 14 points, tackle Biarritz, who have 12 and are one behind Ospreys, on Sunday.