Ireland winger Andrew Trimble scored a hat-trick as Ulster mercilessly thrashed Irish rivals Connacht 58-12 at Ravenhill.
A hat-trick from Trimble, combined with a brace from Paul Marshall and tries from Tommy Bowe, Luke Marshall, and Craig Gilroy saw a dominant Ulster take the spoils in this inter-provincial encounter at Ravenhill.
The visitors scored tries of their own from Dave McSharry and Darragh Leader, but were second best for the majority of the game.
Ulster, with a point to prove after last week's disappointment, were brutally efficient and this victory takes them within an inch of the play offs.
As it was, it was Ulster that made the better start, and a well executed maul on five minutes provided the platform for home scrum-half Paul Marshall to nip over for the opening try of the evening.
But Connacht hit back almost immediately and determinedly worked their way into the Ulster 22. From there, some slick handling on eight minutes saw centre McSharry crash over to equalise the score.
Jackson managed to edge his side into the lead four minutes later when he landed a superb penalty from well inside his own half. By this stage, the hosts were settling into their rhythm and beginning to test the resilience their fellow countrymen.
Thus on 14 minutes a period of sustained Ulster pressure culminated in Trimble continuing his rich vein of form by scoring in the left hand corner.
Ulster turned the screw even further on 22 minutes when Trimble burst through the visiting defence, before feeding Bowe to finish unopposed under the posts.
The hosts certainly had the upper hand at this stage of the encounter, and on 24 minutes Paul Marshall cleverly evaded several Connacht defenders before touching down for his second try.
The superiority of the home side was quite pronounced at this point, but it must be acknowledged that the Connacht defence was far too passive for its own good.
The match was somewhat lacking in continuity during much of the first half, but it remained a decent spectacle nonetheless, if a little one-sided. The visitors did rally towards the tail end of the half, and built some phases through their pack; with skipper John Muldoon particularly conspicuous.
The ascendant hosts didn't look particularly threatened by such advances, though. And with virtually the last kick of the half, Jackson augmented the home team's lead even further with a superbly struck effort to make it 20-5 going into the interval. It was quite a disjointed half of rugby, but Ulster will have been more than content with the scale of their dominance.
It didn't get any better at the start of the second half for Connacht when Trimble earned his second try by galloping the full length of the pitch to score. Jackson converted to make it 37-5, leaving Connacht with a veritable mountain to climb.
Luke Marshall got in on the act on 47 minutes; when he gathered an inside pass from Jackson to race over the whitewash.
It was all Ulster at the beginning of the half, and the visitors were beginning to look fairly ragged. Nick Williams picked up at the base of a scrum before passing inside to replacement Michael Heaney who was able to draw his man, and put Trimble over for his hat-trick.
But to their credit, Connacht weren't finished and Leader got over for their second try on 61 minutes, successfully converted by Miah Nikora. Such resistance proved temporary, however, and on 68 minutes Gilroy got over in the left hand corner.
Substitute James McKinney added the extra two. Try as they might, Connacht just couldn't navigate their way through a well-drilled home defence.
All in all, it was an emphatic victory for the Ravenhill side, and one that b rings them one step closer to a much coveted play off place.
Tries: P Marshall 2, Trimble 3, Bowe, L Marshall, Gilroy
Cons: Jackson 5, McKinney
Pens: Jackson 2
Tries: McSharry, Leader
Yellow Card: Swift
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (c), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Louis Stevenson, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Stuart McCloskey.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Eoghan Masterson, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Andrew Browne, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Darragh Leader.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
by Rory McGimpsey