Published Saturday, 29 March 2014
Andrew Trimble was unable to stop Cardiff's only try. (© Presseye)
The win ended a run of five successive defeats for the Cardiff Blues who welcomed back former Wales international hooker Matthew Rees, who came off the bench for his first appearance after five months out for treatment for testicular cancer.
Both sides scored one try a piece - Robbie Copeland for Cardiff and Darren Cave for Ulster - however it was the penalties that made the difference.
Paddy Jackson scored six while Cardiff's faultless Gareth Davies scored seven.
At the start it looked as though it would be more of the same as Ulster centre Darren Cave handed off full-back Dan Fish to speed over for a simple opening try, even if Paddy Jackson was wide with the conversion.
Then a Tommy Bowe kick ahead was hacked dead by Blues scrum-half Lewis Jones, giving the visitors a five-metre scrum, but the seemingly inevitable second try was spurned due to a knock-on.
Instead, the Welsh region cut the deficit with a Gareth Davies penalty.
The Blues, with Cory Allen and Alex Cuthbert looking lively, enjoyed a spell of territorial advantage and another Davies penalty put them in front after 25 minutes.
Ulster suffered a double blow when lock Dan Tuohy was sin-binned for an offence at the tackle and Davies punished them further with the resulting penalty, before the Blues pack embarked on an incredible 40-yard rolling maul which brought Davies his fourth successful kick.
And the complete turnaround of fortunes was underlined when Robin Copeland, in his 50th game for the Blues, grabbed a loose ball on halfway and fed Cuthbert, who sped inside before returning the pass with some neat sleight of hand to send the number eight over.
Davies added the conversion and another penalty to make it 22-5 and see the Blues leave at half-time to a standing ovation from an ecstatic 7,000 crowd.
Ulster reappeared with renewed energy after the interval and Jackson kicked three points when Jones transgressed, before then repeating the feat after the home side handled in a ruck.
Andrew Trimble almost created an Ulster try when he collected his own kick only to unleash a wild pass, but the visitors kept up the pressure and centre Luke Marshall reached over only for the combined efforts of Josh Navidi and Isaia Tuifua prevented him grounding the ball.
Italian referee Marius Mitrea had been playing advantage and Jackson landed the penalty.
The Blues, with flanker Navidi involved in everything, stormed back and a Davies penalty extended the lead, only for Jackson to reply with three of his own and close the gap to two points with five minutes left.
A superb tackle by Allen prevented an Ulster break-out before Cave conceded a silly penalty, Davies put over another kick and the Blues managed to survive the final frantic exchanges.
The defeat was Ulster's fifth in their league and their first in 2014 and they will want to put this game to the back of their minds ahead of their all-important European Cup clash at Ravenhill next week.
© UTV News