Ulster 24 Cardiff Blues 17
Ulster racked up a third win from five Guinness PRO12 games as they claimed a bonus point 24-17 victory over the Cardiff Blues.
Tries from Andrew Trimble, Paul Marshall, Stuart McCloskey and man of the match Nick Williams paved the way for the victory, which takes their unbeaten league record at home to 14 games.
It was also their third bonus point win – all have been secured at the Kingspan Stadium – which was much-needed after having lost their only two games away from Belfast.
The hosts did not have it all their own way, however, as an eager and energetic Blues side came away with a losing bonus point. Josh Navidi scored Cardiff’s only try, with Rhys Patchell chipping in with 12 points from the boot.
The Blues were out of the blocks quickly, breaking the deadlock with a penalty from Rhys Patchell in the third minute after Wiehahn Herbst had been penalised at a scrum.
Ulster began to click towards the end of the first quarter, with a trademark charge from Nick Williams leading to Trimble crossing over on the right. The try was given after the TMO was consulted over a forward pass from Louis Ludik.
Ian Humphreys missed the difficult conversion but the Blues then struck back and, when Lewis Stevenson was pinged at a lineout, Patchell made no mistake with the long range penalty to take it to 6-5 to the visitors.
The Blues then ended a rather uneventful half in the ascendance and with skipper Navidi prominent it was little surprise that a penalty came their way when Sean Reidy was penalised after a tackle.
Again, Patchell kicked the three points to give the Blues a 9-5 advantage, but Ulster finished the half with a huge surge at the Blues’ line.
It led to Josh Turnbull being sin-binned right on the whistle after his boot collided with Marshall’s face. From the resulting penalty McCloskey trucked the ball up and Marshall dived over.
This time Humphreys converted and took his league points haul up to 500 as Ulster came off for half-time leading 12-9.
Ulster continued to use the man advantage with Williams getting a score off the back of a huge driving maul and Humphreys again added the extras to put the home side 19-9 up.
Even with Turnbull back, though, the Blues conceded again and McCloskey bagged Ulster’s bonus point with his 49th minute effort. It went unconverted by Humphreys, who was then replaced by returning Ireland World Cup squad member Paddy Jackson.
Herbst was then sin-binned in the 55th minute for blocking Tavis Knoyle and Navidi barged over two minutes later from a lineout, though Patchell was unable to convert for the Blues.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, another breakdown infringement gave Patchell a chance to bring the Blues within losing bonus point territory. He took it.
But the Blues then had Aled Summerhill binned for upending Craig Gilroy in the 73rd minute which scuppered any prospect they had of battling back at the end.