RaboDirect Pro12 pacesetters Ulster kept up their charge by overpowering Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on Friday night with a 46-19 win over Dragons.
The Irish province made it eight wins from eight - six in the PRO12 to stay a point clear of the Scarlets - this season to pile the misery on the struggling Dragons, who still have just Zebre beneath them in the table.
The visitors ran in six tries and South African ace Ruan Pienaar, who scored one of them, added 18 points with the boot for a comprehensive win.
Ulster, whose matchday squad included nine players who will be with Ireland in the autumn, headed into the game fresh from a perfect start to their Heineken Cup campaign while the Dragons were attempted to forget a nightmare opening in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
The hosts have a formidable record against Ulster, who had won just once on their travels to Newport since 2006.
But this is a different Ulster and the confident visitors were one try away from a bonus point by half-time, albeit with a slim three-point lead.
The Dragons made a sharp start and led 6-0 thanks to a brace of early penalties by full-back Tom Prydie.
However, the leaders struck back on 16 minutes when Ruan Pienaar made a break inside the hosts’ 22 and offloaded for Ireland prop Tom Court to go under the posts, making the South African’s conversion an easy one.
An entertaining half then swung back the Dragons’ way thanks to a converted try by Samoan centre Andy Tuilagi, then back to Ulster with number eight Nick Williams’ close range score.
Prydie slotted a penalty to inch the hosts back in front only to then see his clearance charged down by Pienaar, who dived on the ball over the line for Ulster’s third try.
He was wide with the conversion, just as he had been with a pair of penalty attempts, and the leaders had to be content with a 19-16 lead at the break.
However, Pienaar made no mistake from the tee when he slotted over a pair of early penalties after the restart to one from Prydie.
And it was all over entering the final quarter thanks to tries by centre Darren Cave, from close in, and wing Andrew Trimble, who intercepted on halfway before dashing between the posts.
Pienaar converted both for a 39-19 lead before replacement centre Jared Payne added to the Dragons’ woes with a try at the death, Pienaar again converting
Dragons: Tom Prydie; Will Harries, Adam Hughes, Andy Tuilagi, Tonderai Chavhanga; Lewis Robling, Jonathan Evans; Owen Evans, Steve Jones (capt), Nathan Buck, Adam Jones, Rob Sidoli, Tom Brown, Jevon Groves, Toby Faletau.
Replacements : Sam Parry, Nathan Williams, Dan Way, Ian Nimmo, Nic Cudd, Liam Davies, Steffan Jones, Pat Leach.
Tries: TuilgaiCon: PrydiePens: Prydie 4Ulster (19) 46
Ulster: T Bowe; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; R Pienaar, P Marshall; T Court, R Best, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, I Henderson, C Henry (capt), N Williams
Replacements: N Brady (Best 41), C Black (Court 60), J Afoa (Fitzpatrick 57), M McComish (Henderson 63), R Wilson (Williams 57), P Jackson (P Marshall 67), L Marshall (Wallace 57) J Payne (Cave 67).
Tries: Court, N Williams, Pienaar, Cave, TrimbleCons: Pienaar 2Pens: Pienaar 5
Ref: Peter Fitzgibbons (IRFU)