Ulster 45 Aironi 7
Ulster bolstered their hopes for a PRO12 League play-off place by notching up a seventh win from their last eight outings with a victory that gives them the perfect boost ahead of their Heineken Cup quarter-final with Munster.
However, the six-try win may have come at a cost as star flanker Stephen Ferris was helped off with an ankle injury just after the half-hour mark and he could be a doubt for the Munster clash.
Indeed Ferris, one of Ulster’s trio of returning Ireland players, along with Rory Best and Andrew Trimble, all played their part as the home side notched up their fourth win over bottom side Aironi – including two games in Europe – this season.
After an early wobble when Sinoti Sinoti nearly broke through for a try, Ulster knuckled down to work and were quickly rewarded when, following a Chris Henry turnover, Aironi overthrew a lineout near their line and with Best snaffling possession, the net result was Ian Humphreys’ delayed pass putting Paddy Wallace in under the posts after 12 minutes.
Ruan Pienaar converted and then added a second after referee Neil Paterson awarded Ulster a penalty try after the Italians just could not live with the Ulster set-piece on their line following several scrums 10 minutes later.
Ulster then lost key player Ferris to what appeared to be an ankle injury and just after the Ireland flanker left the field an Tito Tebaldi caught the home side out when he scuttled over from a neat lineout move with Naas Oliver adding the extras.
Still, Ulster kept a 10-point margin between the sides with a Pienaar penalty four minutes later and then with Giulio Toniolatti binned for handling on the deck, Ulster kicked for the corner won the lineout and Best drove over.
Pienaar’s conversion – the last action of the half – gave Ulster a comfortable-looking 24-7 lead.
The bonus point duly arrived four minutes after the restart when Darren Cave was put through by Wallace to score under the posts and give Pienaar his fourth conversion.
Ulster then had to wait until three minutes after the hour to score again - thanks to a raft of substitutions which broke up the game’s pattern – when Tom Court steamed over and Ian Humphreys landed the extras.
The sixth try arrived seven minutes from the end when Pedrie Wannenburg picked up and scored from a scrum, with Humphreys again converting.