Ulster look to be getting their season back on track after a comprehensive 35-5 United Rugby Championship (URC) victory over the Stormers, while the Bulls suffered a 37-28 defeat at the hands of Scarlets.
The defending URC champions, Stormers, were forced to rest their Springboks for the trip to the Kingspan. They were further depleted before kick-off as Junior Pokomela and Clayton Blommetjies withdrew from the matchday squad.
Injuries to hooker JJ Kotze, number eight Evan Roos, and Jean-Luc du Plessis in the first half further complicated things for the Capetonians, with replacement hooker Scarra Ntubeni also forced off the bench early in the second half.
The bonus-point win moves Ulster into third place on the overall standings and just two points adrift of the Stormers (43) in second.
Ulster went into the break leading 21-0 after tries from scrum-half Nathan Doak, wing Ben Moxham, and Nick Timoney, all converted by Doak.
Stormers lock BJ Dixon was yellow-carded early in the second half for a high tackle. Ulster made the most of the advantage, scoring moments later through prop and man of the match Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, again converted by Doak.
Full-back Michael Lowry scored the fourth try, which John Cooney converted, to extend Ulster’s lead to 35-0, with Andre Hugo Venter scoring a consolation try for the visitors.
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The Irish province, who had lost to Benetton and Munster in their previous two URC outings, scored five tries with Nathan Doak finishing with a 13-point haul after claiming the opening score and also converting four Ulster touchdowns.
The result was never in doubt, with the home team leading 21-0 at the break and having dominated the match.Early on, both Doak and Tom Stewart got over the Stormers’ line, only for both efforts to be ruled out by referee Ian Adamson.
It took until the 14th minute before Ulster did manage to register the first score, which came from Doak after a break made by Stewart Moore and was carried on by Alan O’Connor and Harry Sheridan before the scrum-half dived over.
Doak added the conversion and did so again seven minutes later when Ulster upped the ante, and in a sweeping move, Moore provided the assist for Moxham to race over.
Then after Ulster’s line had held firm, the home side finished the half strongly when Timoney surged over from close range after a tap-and-go penalty.
Though it was not clear that Timoney had grounded the ball, the try was awarded, and Doak again converted to put Ulster 21-0 ahead at half-time.
The second half opened with Stormers lock Ben-Jason Dixon being yellow-carded for a high hit on Michael Lowry, and shortly afterwards, Ulster had their bonus point when Toomaga-Allen was put in space by James Hume. Again Doak added the two points.
Ulster claimed their fifth try just before the hour when Duane Vermeulen and Moxham combined to feed Lowry, who outran the despairing cover. This time John Cooney converted, and the home side were now 35-0 in front.
Venter grabbed a consolation score for the Stormers after 76 minutes which they failed to convert.
Scarlets survive superb second-half rally from Bulls
The hosts led 27-7 at one stage but a superb second-half rally from the South Africans saw them nearly snatch a United Rugby Championship win at Parc-y-Scarlets.
Dan Davis, Kemsley Mathias, Gareth Davies and Johnny McNicholl scored tries for Scarlets, with Sam Costelow kicking three penalties and three conversions while Dan Jones also made his kick count.
Stravino Jacobs, Zak Burger, Cyle Brink and Simphiwe Matanzima scored Bulls’ tries, with Chris Smith converting all four.A penalty from Costelow gave Scarlets an early lead, but Bulls soon replied with the opening try.
From the restart, the hosts lost possession to allow the Bulls to exert a period of pressure before Burger darted over from close range.
Scarlets’ response was swift as first Davis evaded a defender to crash over before the flanker created another try by winning a crucial turnover.
That enabled the home side to secure a five-metre scrum from where Mathias forced his way over, with a second conversion from Costelow giving his side a 17-7 lead at the end of a lively first quarter.
Worse was to follow for the South Africans when they lost possession in the opposition half for Dafydd Hughes to burst away.
When the ball was recycled an alert, Costelow booted the ball downfield, with Davies easily winning the race to collect and touch down.
Costelow converted and added a penalty before his side suffered a blow when centre Joe Roberts was sin-binned for a deliberate offside.
Bulls immediately capitalised when a cross-field kick from Smith was collected by Jacobs to score with Smith’s conversion, leaving his side 27-14 adrift at the interval.
Three minutes after the restart, Roberts returned in time to see Costelow extend the advantage with his third penalty before Bulls remained in contention with a converted try from Brink.
Bulls continued their comeback with a bonus-point try from replacement Matanzima, but twice they elected for driving line-outs when a successful kick at goal would have put them in the lead.
The decisions proved costly as Scarlets broke out. Lionel Mapoe was yellow-carded for a late challenge, and the hosts clinched victory with a try from McNicholl.
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