Ulster 24 - 9 Scarlets: Ulster win crucial European Champions Cup Pool 3 match against Scarlets
Ulster delivered their first win of their European Champions Cup campaign at a vital time in their bid to avoid early elimination with their try bonus victory moving them off the bottom of Pool Three and setting them up nicely for Sunday week's return fixture at the Scarlets.
First-half tries from Darren Cave and Ruan Pienaar - who was making his first appearance of the season in an Ulster shirt and also ended up sin-binned late on - were supplemented by scores in the second 40 minutes by Tommy Bowe, with skipper Rory Best delivering the bonus try.
The 24-9 defeat now leaves the Scarlets - who had two players binned - bottom of the group after going into the game in second place.
The visitors got things going with a penalty after three minutes from Rhys Priestland and Ulster's cause was done no good at all when Ian Humphreys missed his first two shots at goal in the sixth and ninth minutes.
But a late hit on Humphreys by Scarlets flanker James Davies saw him binned in the 11th minute and the home side then got things going with 14 unanswered points.
First up, Cave got over just before the end of the first quarter from a Tommy Bowe assist which Humphreys converted and then in the 18th minute Pienaar marked his comeback with a well-taken touchdown after a Cave break.
Again Humphreys converted and Ulster were 14-3 to the good when Davies returned. Priestland narrowed their lead with a 29th-minute penalty but the Scarlets then finished the half with 14 again after Liam Williams was binned for tipping Louis Ludik up in the tackle.
The Scarlets then won a penalty in the last minute of the first half for being offside but Priestland was wide with the long range shot and it ended with the home side leading 14-6.
But when substitute Stuart McCloskey was penalised for not rolling away, Priestland made no mistake with his third penalty - which came in the 55th minute.
Ulster responded and after Bowe had emptied Harry Robinson, the resulting scrum saw Pienaar do a wraparound and Bowe made the right corner in the 59th minute. Humphreys missed the difficult conversion but the home side now led 19-9 and were one score short of a try bonus.
However, the sight of Nick Williams hobbling off, while McCloskey also left injured, was not a promising one with the return game just a week away.
Still, a great maul over the Scarlets line brought the bonus try and came on 68 minutes, with Best getting the touchdown under a pile of bodies - although Humphreys was again unable to convert.
However, Ulster looked secure and even with Pienaar yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on, they held their line in the face of several waves of Scarlets attacking.
Ulster: L Ludik; T Bowe, D Cave, S Olding, C Gilroy, I Humphreys, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best (capt), W Herbst, D Tuohy, F vd Merwe, R Diack, R Wilson, N Williams.
Scarlets: L Williams, H Robinson, R King, S Williams (captain), M Tagicakibau, R Priestland, A Davies; R Evans, E Phillips, S Lee, J Ball, J Snyman, A Shingler, J Davies, R Pitman.
Belfast Telegraph Digital