Their success was deserved, if only because they scored the only tries of the afternoon, but it was not a game to remember with neither side able to find any fluency in a stop-start encounter.
Cardiff Blues coach David Young was a relieved man but he was unhappy with his team’s performance: “I don’t think we played particularly well. In fact, it was a poor game, with a lot of unforced errors,” said Young.
“But the boys have performed well over the last six weeks and we’ve not had the results. This time we didn’t play so well but got the result and today that was the main thing.”
His Ulster counterpart, Mark McCall, agreed that the match meant little to his team but insisted there had been no lack of intent.
“All week we’ve been speaking about the need to maintain momentum following our win over Gloucester,” he said. “But we haven’t managed to do so and we made a lot of fundamental mistakes.”
Blues fly-half Nick MacLeod used the wind to open the scoring with a penalty from just inside his own half but Ulster were quickly back on terms.
David Humphreys spurned a kickable penalty to go for a lineout drive, but after skipper Andy Ward was held up just short, the Blues transgressed again and this time the Ulster fly-half equalised via a post.
French referee Christophe Berdos angered both sets of supporters by sin-binning warring props John Yapp and Simon Best on the say-so of a touch judge.
The pair were still warming the bench when Best’s temporary replacement, Rod Moore, was penalised at a scrum and MacLeod slotted over the kick.
The youngster was just wide with an attempt to repeat his earlier long distance effort but with each side seemingly unable to hold onto the ball, there was no further scoring in an error-strewn first-half.
Humphreys levelled matters soon after the restart and then went close from 55 yards, but the Blues responded with the first try of the day.
The Cardiff pack drove into Ulster’s 22, and with the referee playing advantage, the Blues spun the ball left for wing Jonny Vaughton to dive over in the corner. Ulster suffered a double blow, with star man Humphreys - he scored all 21 points in October’s victory over the Blues at Ravenhill - injured in attempting to prevent the try and he had to be replaced by Adam Larkin.
Despite that, Ulster battled back and only a desperate double tackle by Craig Morgan and Kort Schubert bundled Kevin Maggs into touch.
Larkin cut the deficit with a penalty but Ulster soon lost lock Rowan Frost to a yellow card for pulling down a ruck. A poor throw into the lineout cost the Blues the try opportunity.
However, the home fans did not have long to wait with replacement hooker Rhys Thomas following up a Morgan break to force his way over.
Larkin just failed to score in the corner but put over a close-range penalty and it needed some defiant Blues defence to keep the visitors out and claim that elusive victory.
: Morgan, Vaughton, Shanklin, Davies, Tuilagi, Macleod, R. Smith, Yapp, G. Williams, Jenkins, D. Jones, Sidoli, N. Thomas, Sowden-Taylor, Schubert. Replacements: Dewdney for R. Smith (68), R. Thomas for G. Williams (66), Budgett for D. Jones (78).
: Tries: Vaughton, R. Thomas. Pens: Macleod 2.
: Wallace, Bowe, Steinmetz, Maggs, Maxwell, Humphreys, Campbell, McCormick, Shields, S. Best, Frost, McCullough, Ward, N. Best, Wilson. Replacements: Cunningham for Wallace (64), Larkin for Humphreys (47), Spee for Campbell (78), R. Best for Shields (57), Mustchin for Frost (73), Feather for Ward (54).
: Pens: Humphreys 2, Larkin 2.