Edinburgh 23-10 Ulster: Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble get on the scoresheet - but Ulster lose
As they look to nail down their places in Ireland's World Cup squad, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble issued the best possible statement of intent last night with try-scoring returns to Ulster colours but could not stop their province from going down 23-10 to Edinburgh at Goldenacre.
The wing duo would have been hoping to be involved in the Irish team that faces Wales later today but have been left to sweat over their tournament prospects after being released from the camp to feature for Neil Doak's men in yesterday's final pre-season contest.
While they will still be nervously monitoring the progress of their rivals for back-three spots in Joe Schmidt's squad this afternoon - a selection set to be revealed to the players tomorrow evening - both will be pleased to have crossed the whitewash knowing the national selectors were keeping a keen eye on proceedings.
Bowe - a veteran of two British and Irish Lions tours as well as the 2011 World Cup - was straight into the action and gave Ulster their only lead of the evening after 20 minutes.
Edinburgh held a 3-0 advantage when Sam Windsor released the bulldozing Stuart McCloskey and quick hands from the inside centre and Craig Gilroy put Bowe in the clear.
Windsor, the new signing from Worcester Warriors who came into the starting line-up when Ian Humphreys pulled out late with a hamstring complaint, missed the conversion and Ulster would not score again for the best part of 45 minutes.
For Bowe, his night would not last much longer - Louis Ludik emerged in his place for the second-half after missing last week's defeat to Leinster with an injury - but by the time he departed Magnus Bradbury and Otulea Katoa had scored for Edinburgh with Fowles adding the extras on both occasions for a 17-5 lead.
Trimble, making his first start for Ulster since October after a toe injury cut short his season last time around, primarily needed to prove his fitness if he is to have any chance of making the plane to a third World Cup but he matched Bowe's scoring feat in the 64th minute to bring the visitors within seven points.
The 30-year-old ran a strong line and had to finish well to force his way over, an act he will hope proves there are no lingering ill-effects from his injury lay-off.
With Windsor having made way for David Shanahan, this time it was Luke Marshall who failed with the conversion and two penalties for the hosts via the boot of Jack Cuthbert in the last 10 minutes ensured there was no chance of a comeback.
Ulster's coaching team will not, however, be unduly concerned by the result of a friendly contest and know that serious matters begin only when the Pro12 kicks off with a visit from Ospreys on Friday.
Still, the loss of Humphreys to an injury will need to be monitored while Roger Wilson and Callum Black have not been seen during pre-season.
While Ulster's Ireland contingent are still sweating on their places in Joe Schmidt's World Cup squad, there are no such concerns for Ruan Pienaar.
The South African star was included yesterday in Heyneke Meyer's panel and, alongside Fourie du Preez and the uncapped Rudy Paige, is one of three scrum-halves who will travel to England with the Springboks.
Ulster: C Gilroy, T Bowe, L Marshall, S McCloskey, A Trimble, S Windsor, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Herring, W Herbst, D Tuohy, F van der Merwe, C Ross, S Reidy, R Diack.
Replacements: P Jackson, R Murphy, R Lutton, P Browne, W Faloon, D Shanahan, S Arnold, L Ludik, P Nelson, C Joyce.