Sidelined with a back injury for almost a month, Ferris was afforded the chance to prove his fitness to the Ireland team management, but was helped from the field shortly after half time after he appeared to turn an ankle after making a surging charge.
However, Ulster still managed to see off a similarly-weakened Edinburgh outfit by six tries to two, Jared Payne collecting a brace, with man of the match Roger Wilson and Craig Gilroy also contributing. Ruan Pienaar kicked all conversions to add to his first-half touchdown. A penalty-try at scrum time emphasised Ulster’s dominance in the set-piece.
It was very much a curate’s egg performance by the unbeaten Ulster outfit who, after a very patchy performance, consolidated their place at the top of the RaboDirect Pro12 League.
They stuttered into action in the opening quarter with poor decision-making allowing Edinburgh to squeeze into a 7-0 lead in the 11th minute. A handling error at the base of an untidy scrum by Paul Marshall eight meters from his own line allowed Edinburgh to flash the ball wide left with winger Tom Brown sprinting in at the corner and Gregor Hunter adding the extras.
Some semblance of normality was restored when Pienaar was temporarily off seeking stitches to close up a head wound, as Niall O’Connor banged over a simple penalty, matched by Brown shortly afterwards.
Ulster only fleetingly put together some decent phases, but still found it hard to penetrate. However, they finally got their opening try in the 29th minute thanks to a massive forward drive in the scrum which had the Edinburgh eight collapsing and referee Nigel Owen hitting them with the maximum penalty under the sticks. That awakened Ulster from their slumber as within six minutes they had scored two converted tries.
First it was Marshall, who started off a move deep in his own half by taking a high ball and feeding Paddy Wallace, who put Gilroy away on a surging run and just as he was tackled he off-loaded brilliantly to Payne to score under the posts. Three minutes later Pienaar charged down an attempted ‘Garryowen’ by Hunter, picked up the rebound and sprinted in.
Edinburgh, though, kept Ulster honest and slack defence allowed Brown to slither in for his second try, again converted by Hunter, as the scoreline narrowed to 24-17 at the break.
Edinburgh struck first on the resumption, Hunter knocking over his second penalty. Ulster again began slowly, before they decided to step on the gas and grab the bonus-point try in the 59th minute thanks to Wilson, who was making his first start since returning from Northampton in the summer.
It was a bit of a dawdle for Ulster in the final quarter and Payne added his second try in the 66th minute after sterling work by replacement Nick Williams.
Gilroy grabbed the sixth try right at the death with a kick and chase, and a little push, with Pienaar converting just for good measure.
Scorers for Ulster: Tries: Penalty, Payne 2, Pienaar, Wilson; Pen: O’Connor; Cons: Pienaar 5.
Scorers for Edinburgh: Tries: Brown 2; Pens: Hunter 2; Cons: Hunter 2.
ULSTER: R Andrew (Nelson 68); C Cochrane, J Payne, P Wallace (Olding 63), C Gilroy; R Pienaar, P Marshall (O’Connor 63); C Black (Lutton 74), N Brady (Annett 68), J Afoa (Macklin 70), L Stevenson (Diack 38), N McComb, S Ferris (Williams 45), M McComish, R Wilson.
EDINBURGH: G Tonks; L Jones, J Houston (Visser 72), J King (Fife 42), T Brown; G Hunter, C Leck; J Yapp (Jackobsen 40), A Titterrell, W Nel (Niven 68); G Gilchrist R McAlpine; S Cox, R Grant, S McInally (Watson 65).
Referee: N Owens (WRU).