Piennar gets Ulster up and running
Last season's beaten finalists Ulster opened their Heineken Cup campaign with maximum points in a 41-17 win thanks to Ruan Pienaar's dramatic bonus try.
The newly-returned Pienaar got down under the posts after Ulster had broken out of their 22 in injury time with the last move of the game. Ulster's other tries came from Paul Marshall (2) and Andrew Trimble, with Paddy Jackson making a vital contribution of 21 points from the boot on a pulsating night for new Ulster coach Mark Anscombe's side.
It was not all plain sailing for Ulster, though, who lost Stephen Ferris prior to the game with a back injury. Castres made a brighter start and Romain Teulet slotted a fourth-minute penalty after Ulster were penalised for dragging down a maul.
But Ulster responded three minutes later as Paddy Jackson slotted a straightforward penalty after Castres had strayed offside. Ulster carved out a try in the left corner a minute later as a Castres high kick went loose and Jared Payne made ground rather easily to set Trimble up for the try.
Jackson then landed a superb conversion from the touchline and Ulster were in front, soon opening up a 10-point lead when Jackson added a second penalty. Paul Marshall's chip and chase then led to Ulster's second try in the 21st minute, the scrum-half dotting down near the posts to give Jackson an easy conversion.
Castres needed to hit back and Pierre Bernard finally launched a cross-kick left for Marc Andreu to score. Teulet added the extras but Ulster immediately hit back with Jackson's third penalty after Castres were pinged for not releasing.
Jackson's fifth kick from five attempts was the final score of the half and Ulster led 23-10 at the break. It was not long before they had their third try, Iain Henderson's surge allowing Paul Marshall to dart over with a blindside break close to the line, with the decision going upstairs to the TMO.
Jackson missed his first kick of the night when trying to convert, but he atoned for his miss three minutes later with a long-range penalty that took Ulster to 31-10. The visitors hit back once more and, after pummelling the Ulster line, winger Marcel Garvey slid over, with Teulet adding the conversion.
Ulster increased their lead through another Jackson penalty before Pienaar made his first appearance since the Four Nations Championship when he came on for Paul Marshall.
In the game's final play, Ulster broke out of their 22 when Johann Muller won a ball at the breakdown. Luke Marshall's break set up Pienaar who showed a lovely swerve and pace to get through the last line of Castres' defence for the bonus try, which Jackson converted.