Ulster paraded several of their new signings and youngsters in their first of three pre-season friendlies, a 15-7 defeat to Bath at Ravenhill.
Ulster were put under pressure by a speedy Bath side early in the match. The visitors however were unable to take advantage of their possession and an interception from Ulster Academy player Chris Cochrane in the 18th minute provided a bit of respite for the Ulstermen who were forced to defend heavily for several phases of play.
Former Ulster player Justin Harrison’s departure from Ravenhill was short-lived as he returned to run out once more in the 31st minute for new club Bath to rapturous applause. Moments later head coach Matt Williams made a raft of substitutions with Matt McCullough, Ed O’Donoghue and Cillian Willis all being replaced by TJ Anderson, Filo Paulo and Paul Marshall respectively.
Bath’s Rhys Crane eventually claimed the first points of the game finally breaking through the Ulster defence to touch down in the dying minutes of the first half. Bath’s number 15 Jack Cuthbert failed to convert but Crane was quick to extend the visitors' lead; his second try of the night snatching Bath a further five points deep into injury time.
Fly-half Shaun Berne’s conversion took Bath’s lead to 12-0 as the half-time whistle blew.
Ulster responded early in the second half with their aggressive play paying off in the 50th minute after a string of well-placed passes eventually found Darren Cave who touched down to claim Ulster’s first points of the night; new signing Clinton Schifcofske added his two points to bring the scoreline to 12-7.
Ulster pushed deep into Bath’s 22 but were unable to turn their possession into points. The stalemate was eventually broken when Bath stole possession in the 65th minute but a well-placed kick from Niall O’Connor took the ball out of danger.
Despite an impressive run from new signing Timoci Nagusa, who powered through two of Bath’s defensive line in a late break attempt, a late penalty sealed Bath’s victory with Robbie Kydd on target to extend the visitors' lead in the final minutes of play.