A stunning hat-trick from the superb Darren Cave saw Ulster romp home over a beleaguered Leicester Tigers side at Ravenhill, winning 26-7 on Saturday.
Despite their recent poor form, the Irish province put in a fantastic performance, full of attacking intent, defensive resilience, and forward aggression.
The English giants had no answer as Irish international Cave scored three well-crafted tries that were complemented by a second half effort from winger Craig Gilroy.
The hosts led throughout the contest, and dominated in virtually every facet of the game. The Tigers did grab a consolation try from young wing Adam Thompstone, but were always second best here; and this won’t go down as one of their better European nights.
While Ulster will lament the fact that they saved the best until last, Cave’s performance will surely have caught Joe Schmidt’s eye.
It was Ulster that made the superior start, and the hosts showed their intention to keep the ball in had in the opening few minutes. Big ball carriers like Franco van der Merwe, and the returning Iain Henderson made powerful runs to get the hosts over the gain line. But the Leicester defence held firm, and the Tigers retained composure to clear their lines and avert danger.
The visitors spent the opening ten minutes establishing field position through the dynamic half-back combination of Ben Youngs and Freddie Burns. Ulster, in turn, attempted to build territory themselves, but were undone by a succession of early errors.
But the persistence of the home side earned its reward on the 19 minute mark. With the hosts encamped on the Tigers’ line, the English side was penalised for a high tackle on Ireland wing, Gilroy. With Pascal Gauz