Ulster had too much firepower for the Ospreys in their PRO12 opener, claiming a convincing 28-6 win at Ravenhill on Friday.
Tries from Rob Herring, Stuart McCloskey, Wiehahn Herbst and Luke Marshall saw the hosts home in an energetic display.
These scores were supplemented by the boot of promising centre McCloskey, who added two penalties and a conversion in an excellent performance.
Andrew Trimble also performed well, showing Joe Schmidt what he’ll miss at the World Cup with a typically robust and physical effort.
Peter Nelson was also influential in the unaccustomed fly-half position for Ulster.
All the Ospreys managed in response were two penalties from talented fly-half Sam Davies, and the Welshmen were nowhere near Ulster’s pace on the night.
It was an ill-disciplined start for both sides, but Ulster scored first on five minutes. Returning openside Willie Falloon burst through the middle, and fed scrum half Paul Marshall, who in turn unleashed Herring to crash over and score.
McCloskey missed the straightforward conversion, but atoned four minutes later when he stroked over a penalty to give his side an 8-0 lead.
The Ospreys rallied in response, but were driven back by monstrous Ulster tackles from the likes of Nick Williams. The visitors attacked primarily through their forwards, with big Joe Bearman conspicuous, but it was all rather static.
The Welshmen clawed three points back on 21 minutes, though, when Davies saw his first penalty career in off the uprights after Herbst was pinged for collapsing a scrum.
Given Ulster’s relative dominance, the home side will be disappointed with their profligacy. But the hosts responded well. On 27 minutes, Irish winger Trimble made a searing break, but was held up in midfield.
From there, McCloskey took up the baton and evaded several Osprey defenders before touching down in the corner. McCloskey converted to make it 15-3.
But the visitors came again, and Davies chipped over another penalty on 37 minutes to reduce the deficit. At the end of a bright half, Ulster were ahead by a nose but failed to shake off the tenacious Welshmen.
Davies had a chance to secure points for his side at the start of the second half, but his effort drifted wide.
McCloskey made no such mistake on 47 minutes, though, when he followed up a typically barnstorming run with another penalty to make it 18-6.
The momentum was now firmly with the hosts, and a series of drives in the Ospreys’ 22 culminated in prop Herbst scoring another try on 53 minutes. McCloskey missed the conversion, though, to keep Ulster 23-6 ahead.
The Welsh region struggled to regain a foothold, and their cause wasn’t helped when Bearman was sent to the bin on 59 minutes for a dangerous tackle.
The match petered out in the last 10 minutes as the Ospreys pounded Ulster’s defensive line, but their attack lacked penetration; handling errors manifesting themselves.
Just as the game threatened to lose its fizz, the home side marched up-field with a slick counter-attack that saw Ulster centre Marshall scamper over in the corner.
The conversion was missed, but it didn’t matter as the bonus point was sealed. Ulster are up and running in the Pro12.
Tries: Herring, McCloskey, Herbst, L Marshall
Pens: McCloskey 2
Pens: Davies 2
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Franco Van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Ricky Lutton, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Peter Browne, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Sean Reidy, 22 David Shanahan, 23 Sam Arnold.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ben John, 11 Tom Grabham, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Lloyd Evans, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Lloyd Ashley (c), 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Marc Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Cai Griffiths, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Sam Underhill, 22 Brendon Leonard, 23 Ashley Beck.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)