ULSTER 26 SCARLETS 13
Ulster consolidated third place in the RaboDirect PRO12 as they secured a deserved try scoring bonus point win over the Welsh visitors at Ravenhill on Friday night.
It was a tougher affair than slaying the Dragons a fortnight ago, Ulster scoring three tires in the first half to Scarlets’ one.
But the Welsh side were determined in the second half and got little at times for their efforts.
A try with the last play of the game from Ulster replacement prop, Tom Court, secured the five points for Ulster, closing the gap on second placed Munster to three points.
Ulster made a lively start and a blistering break from Jared Payne saw him tear down the right flank. He fed winger Tommy Bowe, but the British Lion knocked the ball forward when he was tackled firmly by Scarlets scrumhalf Gareth Davies.
Another backline move saw Ulster’s other winger, Rory Scholes, failed to hold a pass.
Scarlets did threaten for a spell, but it was the home side who were to finally break the deadlock when Paddy Jackson’s grubber kick gave visiting fullback, Jordan Williams all sorts of trouble, and when the ball bounced up Jackson seized the chance to snatch and go in for a try, converted by Ruan Pienaar after 14 minutes.
Three minutes later Jackson was again in the thick of it, this time turning provider with an inside pass to winger Bowe. Pienaar doubled the lead to 14-0.
Scarlets centre Olly Barkley kicked a penalty on 31 minutes, but two minutes after Ulster registered their third try, this time Bowe turning provider for Jackson to go in for his second of the evening Pienaar adding the extras.
Scarlets stemmed the flow with a try on 36 minutes through Davies, Barkley converting that but unable to add a penalty just on half time to leave Ulster 21-10 ahead.
In the second half Scarlets enjoyed a good start and went through the phases close to the Ulster line.
But a great steal from Sean Doyle at the feet of replacement Sione Timani turned things around and Ulster were on the attack again after a break by Pienaar.
However, the South African missed two long range penalty attempts on 51 and 54 minutes to leave the scoreline unchanged.
As Bartley teed up a penalty kick just around the hour mark, the Ulster crowd saw the sight they had waited for, Stephen Ferris removing his training top and make his return to playing after a 16-month injury layoff.
There was a still a match to be won and the Scarlets were in this contest although their precision was just worse than Ulster’s in the last quarter, with too many passes going to ground.
Ulster emptied the bench – although it was concerning to see Ruan Pienaar being helped off by the medics four minutes from the end.
Replacement Ricky Andrew almost got away on the left after a superb break by Stuart McCloskey, making his first start. Gilroy almost getting away on the left hand side.
But it was the pack who forced their way over after a quick tap penalty, replacement prop, Tom court going in for the bonus point securing try, confirmed by the TMO.
Jackson missed the touchline conversion, but it matter little as Ulster had secured another job done.
Ulster: Jared Payne, Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Johann Muller (cpt), Robbie Diack, Roger Wilson, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams.
Replacements: (all used) Niall Annett, Tom Court, Ricky Lutton, Lutton Stevenson, Stephen Ferris, Michael Heaney, Craig Gilroy, Ricky Andrew.
Tries: Jackson (2), Bowe, Court
Cons: Pienaar (3)
Scarlets: Jordan Williams, Kristian Phillips, Gareth Maule, Olly Barkley, Frazier Climo, Aled Thomas, Gareth Davies, Phil John, Kirby Myhill, Jacobie Adriaanse, George Earle, Johan Snyman, Josh Turnbull, John Barclay, Rob McCusker (capt)
Replacements: (all used) Emyr Phillips, Rob Evans, Samson Lee, Richard Kelly, Sione Timani, Aled Davies, Josh Lewis, Adam Warren
Try: G Davies
Pens: Barkley (2)
News Letter man of the match: Jackson
Referee: Neil Hennessy (WRU)