Cardiff Blues completed their second Magners League win over Ulster in as many weeks with a 33-24 victory at Ravenhill on Saturday.
Cardiff Blues completed their second Magners League success over Ulster in as many weeks with a 33-24 victory at Ravenhill on Saturday.
Dai Young's side are enjoying something of a late-season revival in the competition after a sluggish start, with their tries coming from Casey Laulala, soon-to-be Ulster player Xavier Rush and second-half replacement Dafydd Hewitt.
For Ulster, though, defeat represented their fourth game without a win and keeps the pressure on them to ensure they finish ahead of bottom side Connacht, who they head by only four points.
They did stage a second-half revival with tries from Stephen Ferris and Chris Henry, but they were never quite close enough to claim the win.
Niall O'Connor got Ulster moving with an early penalty from under the posts when Gethin Jenkins was pinged at a five-metre scrum after David Pollock had been held up over the line.
However, the remainder of the half belonged to the Blues, with O'Connor's place-kicking being Ulster's only response to two tries from the visitors.
Laulala's score came shortly after Ulster's opening penalty when a pass from O'Connor was picked off by the centre who ran in unopposed from 60 metres out. Ceri Sweeney converted the intercept and the Blues were on their way.
Leigh Halfpenny landed his first penalty nine minutes after Laulala's tenth-minute try and then just before the half-hour mark kicked a long-range effort after Ulster prop BJ Botha was penalised for dropping a scrum which put the Blues up at 13-3.
A penalty from O'Connor at least kept Ulster in touch, but only briefly, as five minutes after the half hour Rush touched down under the posts when Isaac Boss failed to gather an up and under. The Blues, with space to burn, moved the ball at pace with Laulala providing the scoring pass.
Sweeney converted to make it 20-6 for the visitors and even though O'Connor kicked his third penalty it was Halfpenny who completed the half's scoring, with his third penalty putting the Blues 23-9 in front at the break.
O'Connor narrowed the Blues' lead to 23-12 shortly after the restart and then Ferris smashed over for an unconverted score eight minutes before the hour mark.
At 23-17 it looked as if Ulster might mount a realistic challenge but Halfpenny landed another penalty before just falling short from halfway.
Then, with ten minutes remaining, replacement Hewitt danced past Botha after the Blues had kept the ball for about three minutes. Halfpenny converted.
Henry's try late on, which replacement Ian Humphreys converted, was mere consolation.
Tries: Ferris, Henry
Pen: O'Connor 4
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Laulala, Rush, Hewitt
Con: Sweeney 2, Halfpenny
Pen: Halfpenny 4
Ulster: 15 Jamie Smith, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Chris Henry (capt), 7 David Pollock, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Rory Best, 1 Declan Fitzpatrick.
Replacements: 16 Andi Kyriacou, 17 Bryan Young, 18 Dan Tuohy, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Paul Marshall, 21 Ian Whitten, 22 Timoci Nagusa.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 Paul Tito, 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Taufa'au Filise, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Scott Andrews, 17 Gareth Williams, 18 Andries Pretorius, 19 Martyn Williams, 20 Darren Allinson, 21 Dai Flanagan, 22 Dafydd Hewitt.
Referee: Andrew Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Assessor: Brian Stirling (Ireland)