They will now face the winner of this afternoon’s gig between Leinster and Glasgow at the RDS on Saturday 25 May.
On Monday, the main grandstand, which has looked down on nearly 90 glorious years of history at Ravenhill, will be razed to the ground in preparation for the completion of the €17.5m project that will turn the Belfast stadium into a 18,200-seated arena next season. Not a better way to bring the curtain down — victory, just like one back in 1924 when Ulster defeated Leinster 14-6.
Apart from a sluggish opening period, Ulster never really looked like losing this game with tries from Tommy Bowe, Robbie Diack, Tom Court and 13 points from the boot of Ruan Pienaar, who again oozed class in everything he did.
On a perfect night for rugby and in front of a large and raucous home crowd, there was a furious pace introduced into the game right from the off and following a counter-attack by the Scarlets and Owen Williams, who had come in as a very late replacement for Welsh fly-half Rhys Priestland, slotted an easy penalty.
Ulster replied immediately with Pienaar landing a similar effort as both teams attempted to gain control up front. In the opening quarter, it was Scarlets who looked the more confident in their ability while Ulster appeared nervous and appeared to be forcing things.
A Williams’ penalty in the 17th minute rebounded off the right-hand upright and soon Jared Payne speared through a gap to settle Ulster into the Scarlets’ red zone. However, after a little midfield battle of handbags in the 20th minute both Andrew Trimble and visitor’s full-back Liam Williams were binned
The game was a little frenetic at times but Ulster had snatched the initiative and they were finally rewarded in the 25th minute when Pienaar found Bowe with a long pass and the Lions’ winger side-stepped inside his touring partner George North to score in the corner. Pienaar converted from the touchline, but immediately afterwards missed a penalty which is normally well within his compass.
But it mattered little as Pienaar found a wonderful touch from a penalty and from the line-out, flankerDiack powered his way over as Ulster moved into a 15-3 lead in the run-up to half-time. That ended with a second Pienaar penalty after the Ulster scrum destroyed the Scarlets in fronts of their own posts.
Ulster started the second half in a real rush and after Rory Best and Darren Cave were dragged down just short, Court crashed over after a visit to the TMO. Pienaar converted and at 25-3, the big crowd immediately went into carnival mode.
On two occasions the game was held up for long periods, first when Scarlets’ hooker Ken Owens was stretchered off in a neck brace and soon after lock George Earle staggered off after running into Dan Tuohy. Ulster, though, were not too sympathetic and they really should have pressed home their advantage but ignored continual overlaps. In fact one would say that Ulster had packed up for the night.
However, it was the Scarlets who drew the next bit of blood on the hour when replacement scrum-half Gareth Davies weaved his way over for an excellent try which Williams converted. That appeared to awaken Ulster from their slumber and after a typical charge by number eight Nick Williams, Pienaar rifled over his third penalty.
With both teams running their benches, play was a little ragged, but the visitors showed they were far from finished as they stepped up the pace and finally made Ulster’s defence work hard for their money.
Ulster never ventured out of their own 22 except for a restart following a try by Scarlets’ replacement lock Sione Timani which Williams converted. By then it was job done.
Ulster scorers: Tries: Bowe, Diack, Court. Cons: Pienaar 2. Pens: Pienaar 3.
ULSTER: Payne, Trimble, Cave, Olding, Bowe, Jackson, Pienaar, Court, Best, Fitzpatrick, Muller, Tuohy, Diack, Henry, Williams.
Replacements: Allen for Trimble (75), Nelson for Olding (67), P. Marshall for Jackson (59), Herring for Best (73), Lutton for Fitzpatrick (56), Henderson for Tuohy (67), McComish for Williams (68).
Scarlets scorers: Tries: G. Davies, Timani. Cons: O. Williams 2. Pens: O. Williams.
SCARLETS: L. Williams, North, J. Davies, S. Williams, Fenby, O. Williams, A. Davies, John, Owens, Lee, Earle, Snyman, Shingler, Turnbull, McCusker.
Replacements: A. Thomas for L. Williams (41), G. Owen for S. Williams (21), G. Davies for A. Davies (45), R. Jones for John (59), E. Phillips for Owens (47), Adriaanse for Lee (56), Ball for Earle (50), Timani for Shingler (45).
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).