Ulster gave themselves every chance of ending up as Pool 4 conquerors in the Heineken Cup after claiming a 46-20 win over Aironi in Monza.
Ulster gave themselves every chance of topping Pool 4 in the Heineken Cup after sealing a 46-20 win over Aironi at Stadio Brianteo in Monza on Saturday.
The Northern Irish province started the match in impressive fashion and Andrew Trimble had a try disallowed early on.
Just minutes later the winger did get his side on the scoreboard though with an expertly-taken try. After Ian Humphreys and Luciano Orquera exchanged penalties, the Ulster pack began to exert their dominance and they were rewarded with a penalty try when a driving maul was dragged down illegally.
Aironi were struggling to live with the power of their opponents and another penalty and a third try followed just before the break. A strong drive from a lineout resulted in Tom Court touching down to cap an excellent week for the prop, who signed a new two-year deal on Friday.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the second half would be all about Ulster's search for their fourth try and a vital bonus point in one of the tightest pools in the competition.
All credit to the Italians though as they refused to lie down. The men from Monza frustrated their opponents for half an hour and added two tries of their own. The first came from the in-form Sinoti Sinoti after great work by the fly-half Orquera. The second owed more to the sloppiness of the men from Northern Ireland but Roberto Quartaroli showed good opportunism to make the interception and run it in for a try.
Ulster were not to be denied though and with ten minutes remaining Craig Gilroy went over after a number of phases to secure the bonus point.
George Biagi did add a third try for the hosts as the game became very stretched towards the end but the Ulstermen were not in forgiving mood and ran in two more tries, an interception from Robbie Diack and a last-minute effort from Adam Macklin.
The result leaves Ulster in pole position in Pool Four as Aironi remain pointless at the foot of the table going into the final two fixtures against Leicester and Clermont Auvergne.
Tries: Sinoti, Quartaroli, Biagi
Tries: Trimble, Penalty, Court, Gilroy, Diack, Macklin
Con: Humphreys 3, Pienaar 2
Pen: Humphreys 2
Aironi: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Nicola Cattina, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Romano, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Alberto de Marchi, 18 Fabio Staibano, 19 George Biagi, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Naas Olivier, 23 Roberto Quartaroli.
Ulster: 15 Adam D'Arcy, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Nevin Spence, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Tim Barker, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Stefan Terblanche.
Referee: Greg Garner