IN the end, Ulster’s Heineken Cup dream gave way to the reality of a record-breaking Leinster side at Twickenham.
Ulster simply became another statistic on Saturday in the face of Leinster’s confirmation as European rugby’s leading lights.
The 42-14 defeat confirmed Leinster’s dominance - but the Ulster fans who travelled to London as part of the largest ever Heineken Cup final attendance of 81,744 opted to recognise the players’ strengths over any shortfalls exposed on the grand stage.
The sense of pride in Ulster’s memorable path to a first final since 1999 was also apparent among those unable to make the journey, judging by the supporters packed into every corner of Chambers Park on Saturday evening.
Saturday was promoted by some in the media as a ‘Day Of Destiny’ given the packed sporting schedule across different disciplines. However, any risk of confusion over the main focus of the day was promptly put to rest when the television station was switched to Ulster’s preview coverage just a split-second before West Ham United scored the decisive goal over Blackpool in a play-off billed as ‘The Richest Game In Football’!
Although the overall mood within Chambers Park was one of acceptance at Leinster’s superiority, many felt Ulster struggled to take full advantage of some key openings.
The sense that Leinster enjoyed the cutting edge when most called upon was supported by the scoreboard but fans in the town clubhouse pointed to how improved decision-making could have provided Ulster with greater reward than a 14-point return.
Ulster’s encouraging spells led to a rise in the room temperature at Chambers Park and the loudest cheer of the evening arrived thanks to Dan Tuohy’s second-half try.
The scoring boost helped to raise the Portadown roof as well as spirits but, ultimately, it proved the final fling on Ulster’s magical European adventure.