Ulster 16 Llanelli Scarlets 3
Defending champions Ulster qualified for the Celtic Cup with a win over Llanelli on an emotion-filled night at Ravenhill.
It was skipper Andy Ward’s final league game, and as usual the back row led from the front.
But it was former All Blacks centre Paul Steinmetz who stole the show, scoring all of Ulster’s 16 points with a converted try and three penalties as Llanelli slumped to another disappointing defeat.
Steinmetz put Ulster in front with a penalty after two minutes as the visitors were punished for not rolling away at the ruck.
Llanelli were on level terms five minutes later when Ulster were caught offside in midfield and out-half Gareth Bowen slotted over the resulting penalty.
Centre Steve Thomas was denied a try for the Scarlets after he went under the posts but was called back for a forward pass.
A rare Ulster attack saw them regain the lead with Steinmetz’s second penalty of the game after a good drive from the forwards was illegally stopped.
Paddy Wallace badly sliced a drop goal attempt as Ulster started to take a hold on the game.
The Scarlets then gifted Ulster three more points when full-back Barry Davies knocked on from a harmless Bryn Cunningham clearance out of defence.
Llanelli engaged in backchat with the referee, and he awarded a penalty which Steinmetz scored to give Ulster a 9-3 half-time lead.
Llanelli’s cause was not helped when prop John Davies was sent off six minutes after the restart for a late tackle off the ball.
Aled Thomas hit the upright with a penalty after a good break out of defence by Garan Evans, and he then failed with an easier opportunity two minutes later.
Steinmetz, who was conducting the Ulster back line, scored the game’s opening try with 13 minutes remaining.
Ulster worked a scrum from the 22 out to the left, where they had created an overlap.
Steinmetz’s pace took him clear and he had enough strength to evade a last-ditch tackle to go over.
He added the conversion from a tight angle, but missed two late penalties as Llanelli lost their discipline.