Ulster made it back-to-back Magners League wins for new coach Matt Williams at a wind-tousled and rain-swept Ravenhill by seeing off the challenge of Llanelli Scarlets.
In a forward-dominated encounter dictated by the appalling conditions, tries from Isaac Boss, and second-half efforts from man of the match Matt McCullough and Neil Best were enough to secure a 20-8 win that moves Ulster further away from the lower part of the table.
Despite an improved second-half performance from the visitors, with Alex Popham and Simon Easterby being sprung from the bench at the interval, they were unable to live with Ulster’s physicality up front and their miserable form since the turn of the year continued with only one win in six games in all competitions.
Unsurprisingly, the opening 40 minutes were dominated by forward exchanges, with Ulster just about having the upper hand through their more effective mauling and pick-and-drive game.
Fly-half Niall O’Connor saw his first penalty attempt rebound off the upright after nine minutes and that was as close as the home side came to scoring until first-half injury time when Boss wriggled over.
Prior to that, Llanelli’s Regan King probably should have passed with men outside him as the Scarlets attacked off turnover ball just after the half hour.
As it was, Rhys Priestland put them ahead with his 38th-minute penalty before Boss’ try was awarded after referee Andrew Macpherson went upstairs to the television match official.
O’Connor failed to add the extras but did convert a penalty five minutes after the restart to give Ulster an 8-3 lead.
Three minutes after the hour, Priestland left O’Connor on the turf as he ran in what proved to be the Scarlets’ final score, with the fly-half failing to convert his own try and leaving the sides level at 8-8.
But with the gale behind them, Ulster strangled the life out of the Scarlets, with McCullough diving over after 72 minutes and then replacement Best having the final say in injury time.
O’Connor added the points for Best’s effort as Ireland international Easterby left the field with an apparent injury.