SOUTHERN KINGS 7 ULSTER 28
Ulster slogged to a third straight win of the Guinness PRO 14 season to go top of Conference B in Port Elizabeth against Southern Kings.
The Irish province had dominated for most of the match, particularly in the first half, but the ill-disciplined Kings frustrated them continually.
Scottish referee Sam Grove-White showed all his inexperience at this level by failing to take control and carding the Kings for their consistent infringements. Ironically, Ulster had two players sin-binned to Kings' one over the 80-plus minutes.
However, having lacked a clinical edge in the first half, three tries in the second saw Ulster get the job done before a tough game away to Cheetahs on Friday night.
Ulster were forced into a late change after Will Addison was ruled out sick, Peter Nelson taking his place at fullback.
The visitors totally dominated the first half, but failed to get over the try line in spite of several good opportunities.
Indeed, Ulster had to dig deep in the closing minutes of the half to deny the Kings breaching their defensive line.
But they went in at the break with a second man in the bin, captain Rob Herring yellow carded for collapsing a maul. Alan O'Connor had been binned earlier for using his shoulder dangerously, while the Kings had Tienie Burger sin-binned for coming in from the side.
However, the referee left Ulster frustrated as the Kings penalty count hit double figures and there were a number of other occasions it should have been brandished.
It was left to John Cooney to kick three penalties to give Ulster a 9-0 interval lead.
The scrumhalf had also crossed for a try, but it was ruled out as a result of the O'Connor infringement.
He was forced off with a blood injury on 32 minutes, Dave Shanahan coming on.
Cooney did not return for the second half and initially struggled, coupled with more infringements from the Kings.
The hosts drove over from a lineout for a try on 42 minutes with hooker Michael Willesme dotting down and outhalf Banda Converting to come within two points of Ulster.
The breakthrough eventually came for Ulster on the hour mark, Marcell Coetzee forcing his way over for a deserved try, Billy Burns converting for his first place of the campaign.
Seven minutes later replacement Angus Kernoham went over on the blind side, Burns missing the touchline conversion for a 21-5 lead.
Replacement Angus Curtis went over on the 80th minute, and after some confusion in the Ulster ranks who would take the conversion, Nelson stepped up to compete the scoring.
Southern Kings: Botha, Penxe, H Klassen, B Klassen, Basson, Banda, Masimla; Ferreira, Willemse, Pupuma, Oelofse, Astle, De Wit, Burger, Ntsila.
Replacements: A van Rooyen, Vos, Forwood, De Wee, Lerm, R van Rooyen, Du Toit.
Ulster: Nelson, Gilroy, Cave, McCloskey, Speight, Burns, Cooney; Warwick, Herring, O'Toole, O'Connor, Treadwell, Coetzee, Reidy, Timoney.
Replacements: McBurney, O'Sullivan, Herbst, Deysel, Rea, Shanahan, Curtis, Kernohan.