In a nip and tuck first half, Leicester drew first blood with a try from prop Logovi’I Mulipola after six minutes when outhalf Toby Flood had made a good break into the Ulster ‘22’. Flood converted for a 7-0.
Ulster’s response was strong and swift with Jared Payne and Paddy Jackson’s probing aerial kicks causing all sorts of trouble for the Leicester backs.
From a lineout and drive Ulster’s pack rumbled and then Jackson floated over a delightful crossfield kick which British Lion winger, Tommy Bowe took from Miles Benjamin’s hands and touched down.
Jackson landed the touchline conversion to draw things level on 15 minutes, but Flood gave the advantage back to Tigers again with a mid range penalty three minutes later.
Ulster had to withstand a long period of pressure, but a turnover by captain Johann Muller relieved that and they were soon attacking at the other end after a break off a scrum by Paul Marshall, a drive by Bowe and Payne and when the penalty came, Jackson levelled matters at 10-10.
The Irish Province finished the half strongly and Jackson gave them the lead for the first time and at the break 13-10.
Ulster had two tries disallowed in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
First Paddy Jackson intercepted on his own line and ran the length of the pitch only to be pulled back for being controversially offside. Flood kicked the resultant penalty to make it 13-13 after 43 minutes.
Then a lovely move by Ulster saw Marshall, Trimble, Cave and Payne involved with Cave scorching through for a try – but there was a deemed forward pass in the movement.
Jackson missed a penalty but did find the target again jut after Leicester No 8, Jordan Crane was sinbinned for deliberately tripping Ruan Pienaar, who had come on minutes earlier to a thunderous reception.
Ulster had enjoyed all the possession and territory but a clearance by Tigers was not dealt well with by Payne or Trimble, a penalty came, but Flood missed the 60th minute attempt which left Ulster still ahead 16-13.
A brilliant scrum from Ulster close to the visiting ‘22’ saw the home side secure a penalty and Jackson despatched that for a 19-13 lead after 66 minutes.
With eight minutes to go another Jackson penalty gave Ulster the breathing space they needed as he kicked six from seven to make it 22-13.
Outhalf replacement for Tigers, Owen Williams, hit the left pole with a drop goal attempt just after he came on as Ulster pressed for the losing bonus point, but he did bring them into that territory with a penalty four minutes from the end.
Ulster: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe; Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (c), Dan Tuohy, Roger Wilson, Chris Henry, Nick Williams
Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Ricky Lutton (Fitzpatrick 77), Iain Henderson (Williams 56), Robbie Diack (Muller 66), Ruan Pienaar (P Marshall 47), Stuart Olding (L Marshall 51), Michael Allen (Bowe 72)
Pens: Jackson (5)
Leicester Tigers: Niall Morris; Miles Benjamin, Vereniki Goneva, Dan Bowden, Adam Thompstone; Toby Flood (c), Ben Youngs; Logovii Mulipola, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon (Kitchener 59), Geoff Parling, Ed Slater, Julian Salvi, Jordan Crane
Replacements: Neil Briggs, Boris Stankovich, Fraser Balmain, Graham Kitchener (Deacon 59), Thomas Waldrom (B Youngs 64), David Mele, Owen Williams (Flood 72), Terrence Hepetema
Pens Flood (2), Williams
Sin-bin: Crane (58-68)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
News Letter Man of the match: Paddy Jackson