Ulster’s European Champions Cup campaign roared back to life with a stunning five-try bonus point thumping of Toulouse at the Kingspan Stadium.
Les Kiss’ men simply overwhelmed the French visitors – the first time the four-times European champions have been held pointless in the competition – with their tries coming from Nick Williams, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey and Chris Henry.
Paddy Jackson added four conversions and a first-half penalty while replacement Ian Humphreys also slotted a conversion as Ulster wrapped up a 38-0 mauling.
The victory saw the home side move up from bottom to second place in Pool One ahead of next week’s return match in Toulouse.
Ulster led 17-0 at half-time in an opening 40 minutes that saw three players sin-binned, Sebastian Bezy and Yacouba Camara for the French and Williams for the hosts.
It was a nervy start for both sides but Toulouse, whose campaign could now be over after suffering a second defeat in three games, had the first significant scoring chance only for Toby Flood’s 13th-minute penalty attempt to sail wide.
Ulster certainly had most of the territory and ambition while the sight of Louis Picamoles departing early with an arm injury did the French cause no good at all.
The home side made their dominance pay in the 22nd minute when, off a penalty which they put in the corner before winning the lineout, they drove up the blindside and then opened it out.
Robbie Diack’s assist gave Williams the chance which he took, dragging Gael Fickou and Bezy with him before grounding the ball just to the right of the posts.
Jackson made the straightforward conversion and Ulster were 7-0 up.
That became 10-0 a minute before the half-hour after Jackson’s strong surge to the French line was held up short, with Bezy being shown yellow by referee Wayne Barnes for deliberate offside, and the Ulster fly-half slotted the penalty.
Flood had another penalty chance soon after but, again, he missed.
Both sides were then reduced to 14 men when Williams was yellow-carded after smashing Vincent Clerc at a ruck but Ulster struck again just on half-time.
This time Ruan Pienaar’s pass saw Trimble burst through before chipping and collecting past Clerc to score near the posts. Jackson’s conversion took it to 17-0 at the interval, with Toulouse picking up another yellow when a deliberate trip by Camara on Pienaar saw him binned just as Bezy returned.
Ulster started the second half strongly and came close to scoring two minutes in when Craig Gilroy had the ball knocked from his grasp by Clerc as he dived for the line.
Shortly afterwards, though, Ulster got their third when Pienaar’s audacious cross-kick – hit off his weaker left foot – was perfectly weighted for Marshall to score.
Jackson again added the extras and the home side had a 24-0 lead.
The bonus point seemed inevitable and duly came in the 53rd minute when McCloskey surged through out on the right and, after dotting down under the sticks, Jackson’s fourth conversion took the score to 31-0.
Toulouse nearly got off the mark when Jean-Marc Doussain lunged for the line only for Trimble to hit the replacement scrum-half and dislodge the ball.
Ulster’s fifth try arrived with less than 10 minutes to go when Henry was on the back of an irresistible driving maul which Humphreys converted to cap a superb victory.
Here are the full-times scores from an excellent night for the Irish:— BreakingNews.ie (@breakingnewsie) December 11, 2015
Ulster 38 Toulouse 0
Connacht 25 Newcastle 10 pic.twitter.com/dUzurUzk3D