ULSTER SHOWED NO immediate effects of their traumatic fortnight, following the passing of Nevin Spence, and ran in seven tries to beat Cardiff Blues 48-19.
There were two tries apiece for Tommy Bowe and man-of-the-match Nick Williams as Ulster made it four wins from four in the Pro12.
There was a well-observed minute’s silence for Spence, the Ulster player who passed away on 15 September after a farming accident, before kick-off.
Bowe was making his first start of the season, in his second coming at Ulster, but a spot of over-eagerness by the winger led to a penalty being awarded to the home side.
Jason Tovey made it 3-0 and Blues then proceeded to botch a four-on-one chance to score a try.
Tom James made a fine break up the left and chipped ahead but captain Sam Warburton, with the try-line inches away, knocked on. Tovey made up for the disappointment on nine minutes with a second penalty.
A good break by Ulster full-back Jared Payne then led to a penalty for Mark Anscombe’s men and Paddy Jackson got his side on the board.
It got even better for Ulster on 15 minutes when they piled forward to force a try. Nick Williams and John Afoa were pivotal in driving their side forward and Paul Marshall set up outside centre Michael Allen to touch down.
Jackson slotted a simple conversion as Allen went off injured by Tovey reduced the errors, making it 10-9, when the visitors were harshly penalised for not backing off 10 yards.
With 10 minutes to go in the half, scrum-half Paul Marshall spun superbly out the blindside of an attacking Ulster ruck and fed the supporting Iain Henderson.
The back-row found Nick Williams, who powered over for his team’s second try. Jackson added the extras to make it 17-9. The last meaningful development of the half saw Tovey leave with a leg injury.
More of the same
Any hopes of a Cardiff comeback were soon extinguished when Paddy Jackson sent Bowe scampering clear for his first try.
Jared Payne, who has had an excellent comeback from an Achilles’ injury, scored a stunning solo try soon after with a strong run followed by a chip and chase that resulted in the bonus point try.
Williams then popped up on the left wing to score his second try before Neil McComb set up Bowe for his second five-pointer of the evening.
The home side responded with a Harry Robinson try but it would be the highlight of a grim night’s work.
There was still time for Andrew Trimble to burst clear of a ragged Blues defence to score try number seven and deliver the perfect scoreline tribute to their late colleague Spence.