Paddy Jackson stars as Ulster sink Leicester Tigers
Ulster kicked off their bid to make the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup for the fourth straight year by posting a 22-16 home win over Leicester on Friday night.
Five penalties and a conversion from the in-form Paddy Jackson, alongside a first-half try from Tommy Bowe - a score which was also created by Jackson - sent Mark Anscombe's men on their way to victory, although they were unable to deny the visitors a losing bonus point.
The Tigers - who have now lost all three times they have played European rugby at Ravenhill - scored a first-half try through Logovii Mulipola, while Toby Flood nailed two penalties and a conversion before replacement Owen Williams kicked a late penalty to earn Leicester their first ever point from Heineken Cup rugby in Belfast.
However, the visitors' cause was badly damaged by the 58th-minute sin-binning of Jordan Crane, with Ulster kicking three penalties while the number eight was off the pitch.
After Ulster had butchered an early scoring chance, it was the Tigers who made the perfect start. They crossed the Ulster line after six minutes when prop Mulipola touched down in the right corner after a neat half break by Flood, who also added the excellent conversion.
But Ulster struck back on the quarter-hour mark and, after Ulster drove a lineout towards the Tigers' line, Jackson put in a marvellous cross-kick which Bowe superbly took ahead of Niall Morris.
Jackson then calmly converted from the left corner and the sides were level, but not for long as Flood then landed his first penalty after Ulster went in at the side on a Tigers' lineout maul.
Just after the half-hour mark, though, Ulster - who had resisted a period of sustained Tigers' pressure - levelled things again with Jackson's first penalty after Julian Salvi was penalised at the breakdown.
Then, just before half-time, a searing break from Paul Marshall led to Leicester conceding on their own line and Jackson made no mistake from the penalty to give the home side a 13-10 half-time lead.
But the Tigers drew level again after Jackson was adjudged to be offside and Flood did the necessary from the penalty after Jackson had run the length of the field from his intercept.
Darren Cave then crossed the line after some neat interchanges on the left flank but the TMO was called in to adjudicate on Luke Marshall's pass to Jared Payne and ruled it forward.
Still, Ulster then tried to make amends when Dan Cole was penalised at a scrum - up to that point an area of the game which the visitors dominated - which led to a critical and kickable shot at goal for Jackson, which he managed to send wide.
However, he made no mistake just before the hour mark after Ulster battered their way deep into Leicester territory to see flanker Crane sin-binned - for interfering with substitute Ruan Pienaar - and Ulster were back in the lead and a man up for 10 minutes.
Leicester then blew a chance to level it when Flood pulled his 61st-minute penalty wide to the left and Jackson landed his next effort four minutes later to give Ulster an 19-13 lead with Crane still in the bin.
And, then with less than 10 minutes to go, Ulster put in a huge attack full of continuity to win another kickable penalty which Jackson nailed just before Crane returned to bring Leicester back to full strength.
With the visitors now out of bonus-point territory, and with skipper Flood substituted, they needed to score next and replacement fly-half Owen Williams saw his drop goal hit the upright and stay out.
Three minutes later, though, Rory Best was penalised at the breakdown and Williams this time kicked the penalty to make it 22-16.