Edinburgh travelled to Dublin looking to become the first ever Scottish side to achieve the unthinkable and reach the Heineken Cup final.
In Sunday’s semi-final in Bordeaux, a heavyweight showdown between reigning champions Leinster and the much-fancied Clermont Auvernge was also on the cards, with the winners likely to be heavy favourites to win at Twickenham next month.
Ulster 22-19 Edinburgh
In a thrilling contest, Edinburgh narrowly missed out on a place in the final after they were outmuscled by a streetwise Ulster team. They were indebted to the precision of scrum-half Ruan Pienaar’s kicking, holding on to reach only their second ever final.
Ulster’s scrum gained the upper hand early on, despite Edinburgh taking the lead through two long-range penalties from Greig Laidlaw, as French referee Romain Poite chose to ignore the fact the ball had left the base of Ulster’s attacking scrum five metres from the Edinburgh try line.
That led to the opening try from number eight Pedrie Wannenburg, with Pienaar converting.
To their credit, Edinburgh stuck to their offloading game plan and quickly ran their way up to the Ulster try line with a series of neat passes and intricate off-loads.
They seemed certain to score but for a knock-on close to the line from Netaini Talei which killed their momentum.
Ulster were then reduced to 14 men after fullback Stefan Terblanche was cited for a punch on Ross Ford.
But the Scots could not make the numerical advantage count and it was Ulster who scored the next points through another penalty from the ever impressive Pienaar, although Laidlaw slotted another penalty for Edinburgh on the stroke of half-time.
After another Laidlaw penalty narrowed the gap, Ulster regained control for the opening period of the second half as Edinburgh struggled to gain any territory or possession and struggled to get their wingers Lee Jones and Tim Visser into the game.
The power of the Ulster scrum was a telling factor in Pienaar’s next penalty effort was sailed over on the hour mark as Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley looked to his bench for impact in the form of Roddy Grant and Jim Thompson.
A final penalty from Pienaar on 75 minutes extended the gap to ten points and virtually clinched the game as Edinburgh now needed a converted score and a penalty or drop goal just for extra time and it wasn’t to be although they managed a fine try with the last play of the match through substitute Thompson which was converted by Laidlaw.
Despite narrowly missing out on a Heineken Cup Final, this young Edinburgh side now knows what is required at this level and this can only benefit Scottish rugby as a whole.
Clermont Auvergne 15-19 Leinster
In a thrilling contest, Leinster held off the challenge of Clermont to reach their third final in four seasons.
In front of a noisy crowd in Bordeaux‘s Stade Chaban-Delmas, Clermont stand-off Brock James held his nerve to land four first half penalties to give the French side a 12-6 lead. Leinster could only manage two penalties from their own number 10 Johnny Sexton.
After what must have been a hugely motivational half-time team talk, Leinster came out firing in the second half and quickly took the lead through a try from prop Cian Healy, who was on hand to receive a scoring pass from full-back Rob Kearney, who had made the initial break.
The try was converted by Sexton before a monstrous drop-goal from Kearney gave the Dubliners a four-point lead which they were never to relinquish, despite a huge effort from the Clermont forwards who seemed certain to score on more than one occasion.
Sexton landed another penalty before the game’s major talking point. Clermont centre Wesley Fofana looked to have crossed but was ruled to have lost control of the ball over the line despite his premature celebrations.
Another Brock James penalty and a late surge could not penetrate the Leinster line.
The men from Ireland held on to reach yet another Heineken Cup final at Twickenham on May 19, for which they must surely be favourites against a spirited but limited Ulster side whom they have beaten twice already this season in the Pro 12.
RaboDirectPro12/HSBC World Sevens
Glasgow Warriors will look to secure a play-off place next Saturday night at what will be the last ever rugby match played at Firhill as they host Connacht.
The Warriors fans will also get a chance to say farewell to head coach Sean Lineen, as well as a host of stars including Richie Gray and Johnnie Beattie who are leaving the club after the play-offs and Grand Final, which are now likely to be held in Ireland or Wales.
Rugby fans in Glasgow and the west will also be packing out Scotstoun Stadium next weekend for the HSBC World Sevens Series, which will see 16 nations compete over the course of the weekend.
Scotland have been drawn against South Africa, Wales and Russia in Pool D and the action begins at 10:30am.
You can follow Finlay Morrison on Twitter @finmorrison