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McLaughlin delighted to reach play-offs

Guinness PRO12 Editor

9 May 2011

Brian McLaughlin could hardly hide his satisfaction as Ulster battled to victory over Newport Gwent Dragons to book their place in the Magners League play-off semi-finals.

A double from Nevin Spence and a close-range Pedrie Wannenburg effort put Ulster on the road to victory as they survived a late Dragons onslaught.

They now face the Leinster at the RDS on May 13, with a place in the Magners League Grand Final up for grabs.

It was the first time Ulster had triumphed at Rodney Parade since 2006 and McLaughlin reckons the victory demonstrates how much his team have developed this season.

"It was an outstanding victory, we were under no illusions and knew exactly how difficult it was going to be coming here," said McLaughlin.

"We came here last year in the first game of the season, full of hope and confidence, and we left with our tail between our legs. So this is a measure of how far we have come this season.

"They've had some splendid results here recently over the Ospreys and Cardiff. So to come here and win is a massive plus.

Now McLaughlin is determined to see his side challenge for the Celtic Crown.

"We're delighted with where we are, we have backed up what we've done in Europe," added McLaughlin.

"We said we wanted to be in the top four and it's great to be here.

"We now have the bonus of going back to Dublin to play Leinster. That will be exceptionally tough.

"We've been there already but didn't play as well as we could have. So we have to go down there all guns blazing and give it a real crack. We want to go down there and do ourselves justice."

Ulster have a less than favourable record against their Irish rivals. Leinster have won six of the last seven meetings between the two sides, most recently a regular league triumph in April.

And McLaughlin is braced for another full-blooded battle against Joe Schmidt's men.

"You look at Leinster and their last Heineken Cup win over Toulouse and see they're a quality side.

"For me they're the best team in Europe let alone the Magners League.

"But it's a challenge we are already looking forward to and will relish."