All of Ulster's points came in the first half as the Irish province defeated Edinburgh 14-7 in the PRO12 at Ravenhill.
Ulster ended their losing streak with an impressive win over Edinburgh at Ravenhill that was much more emphatic than the score line suggests.
An early penalty try was followed by a superb solo effort from young flyer Rory Scholes, who showed sublime footballing skills to dance through the Edinburgh defence.
The two-try salvo earned Ulster a half-time lead that would have been much greater had the hosts been more clinical in their execution.
Edinburgh are too good a side to be dominated for long, though, and the Scotsmen dragged themselves back into the contest in the second half with a fine try from number eight Cornell Du Preez, converted by fly-half Jack Cuthbert.
But Ulster assumed control of the contest from then on with relentless pressure and power, Stuart McCloskey putting in another eye-catching performance for the attention of Joe Schmidt. All in all, this was a much better effort from the Ravenhill men, alleviating the pressure on Les Kiss and keeping the province in the top six of the table.
Ulster’s ambition was severely dented on four minutes when Irish international Iain Henderson was forced to leave the field with a knee injury, replaced by Clive Ross. But their blues were short lived as the penalty try was awarded barely a minute later.
The Edinburgh defence held up a powerful drive from Chris Henry initially, but Pienaar picked and seemed to have darted over the line. However, the Ulster talisman was held up by Edinburgh skipper, Mike Coman. Ian Davies referred upstairs to Alan Rogan who awarded the try on the basis that the Edinburgh blindside had tackled Pienaar from an offside position. Jackson converted to give the Irishmen a 7-0 lead.
The Scottish side responded well, though, and Cuthbert had a chance to claw three points back on eight minutes, but his kick fell short.
The hosts scored a superb try on 11 minutes when promising winger Scholes deftly sidestepped through the Edinburgh defence to touch down, showing tremendous footwork from the youngster as he bamboozled a helpless Dougie Fife, and Jackson converted to make it 14-0.
Edinburgh tried to regain a foothold through their big ball carriers like Anton Bresler and Du Preez, but struggled to make headway playing into the windy conditions. It was all Ulster at this stage, with the Irish province looking to move it wide at every opportunity.
As well as the hosts were playing, they were having a dreadful time with injuries, losing Darren Cave and Peter Nelson as well as the unfortunate Henderson. The full-back looked in quite a bit of pain as he exited the field, and the knocks were threatening to take the gloss off Ulster’s best first half showing for several weeks.
As the half drew to a close, Alan Solomons’ side were severely under the cosh, but alleviated some pressure through an exit strategy that revolved around Sean Kennedy’s box kicking. Ulster were looking good by half-time but would have wanted more for their relative dominance.
The Scottish side made a raft of substitutions at the beginning of the second half in a bid to infuse their performance with impetus. And they got their wish on 48 minutes as they set up well in the home 22. Once there, Kennedy spun it wide to his half back partner Phil Burleigh who put in the deftest of chips that was gathered superbly by Du Preez to score an excellent try. It was no more than the Scots deserved for their strong start to the second period. Cuthbert converted from a tight angle to bring it back to 14-7.
Ulster replied well, though, stringing together some fluid patterns in the Edinburgh half. And the Irishmen seemed to have scored again when replacement McCloskey steamrolled though two Edinburgh tacklers with immense power. Ian Davies referred upstairs again, but the TMO deemed the evidence inconclusive.
The home side upped the tempo thereafter and although Edinburgh were hanging in well, the momentum was with the Ravenhill men. Particularly impressive in this phase was the gigantic McCloskey who made ground every time he touched the ball.
Ulster were winding the clock down cleverly, and gaps were opening up all over the place. They seemed to have got over the whitewash again on 72 minutes when Luke Marshall crashed over, but the officials decided that Henry had illegally obstructed Burleigh from tackling the Ulster centre. It was a lot closer than it should have been, but Kiss and his men were well worth this welcome win.
Tries: Penalty Try, Scholes
Cons: Jackson 2
Tries: Du Preez
Ulster: 15 Peter Nelson, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Kyle McCall.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Wiahan Herbst, 19 Alan O'Connor, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Stuart McCloskey, 23 Louis Ludik.
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Will Helu, 10 Phil Burleigh, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 John Hardie, 6 Mike Coman (c), 5 Alex Toolis, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 John Andress, 19 Jamie Ritchie, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Michael Allen, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Kieran Barry (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
TMO: Alan Rogan (Ireland)