The rehabilitated Dan Tuohy was one of four changes in the pack for the visit of the Scarlets, along with Tom Court at loosehead, Chris Henry at openside and Williams at Number Eight. Meanwhile, the first-choice half-back tandem of Pienaar and Paddy Jackson returned to first XV action, along with Trimble on the wing and Darren Cave in the centre.
Despite the partisan atmosphere generated by the capacity Ravenhill crowd, it was the Scarlets who made more of the early running, and they deservedly notched up the first points of the encounter through Aled Thomas' ninth-minute penalty. Ulster endeavoured to strike straight back with two promising breaks, but both were undone by knock-ons before the opposition '22' could even be breached.
With the unfortunate Adam D'Arcy succumbing to injury as early as the 15th minute, young Ricky Andrew made an unexpectedly premature entrance at full-back, just as Thomas missed his chance to double the Scarlets' tally with a penalty. Then a blatantly forward crossfield pass from the visitors, followed by an infringement at the subsequent scrum, allowed Pienaar to draw the sides level from the visitors' 10-metre line.
Ulster then put on their most fluid move of the match thus far on 25 minutes, Pienaar capping his 50th appearance in white and red with an exhilarating run which started behind his own try-line, took several Scarlets out of the equation, and finished with a smart pass to Andrew just shy of half-way. The full-back toiled bravely under several heavy tackles before being dragged to ground, but the move served as a clear illustration of Ulster's ball-playing swagger, of which there was plenty more to come.
The hosts first inched into the lead on 33 minutes in more prosaic fashion, courtesy of Pienaar's boot, before Tuohy made his exit after picking up another knock, replaced by McComb. Undaunted, Ulster continued to boss the match, with Pienaar kicking over another penalty from the 10-metre line just before the interval.
Half-Time Score Ulster 9 Scarlets 3
With John Afoa and Paddy Wallace entering the fray in lieu of Adam Macklin and Luke Marshall at the break, Ulster came out for the second period in combative mood, and were good value for the evening's first try on 43 minutes, as a strong charge led by the forwards culminated with Diack sliding between the posts after Rob Herring's savvy offload. Pienaar rapidly raised the Ulster tally to 19 points, with first a conversion of Diack's score, swiftly followed by his fourth penalty as the Scarlets were pulled up for crossing.
More excitement was to come on 55 minutes as Williams bulldozed his way through half a dozen tackles to the line, his final pass just eluding Wallace's outstretched arms. The big Number Eight then resolved to do it all himself seconds later, astutely capitalising on slothful Scarlets defence at a five-metre scrum to dive over the line. Pienaar converted once more, elevating the score to Ulster 26 Scarlets 3.
Williams soon left the field to a standing ovation, and with the Scarlets now in freefall, Ulster thoughts began to turn to two more tries and a bonus point. However, a lengthy stoppage for a seemingly serious injury to Welsh wing George North broke up the game's momentum, and indeed it was the Scarlets who settled back into play more quickly, Josh Turnbull touching down after several minutes' worth of concerted pressure and recycling from the visitors. Thomas converted to keep his side in the reckoning at Ulster 26 Scarlets 10.
Any hopes of a valiant comeback were quashed, however, with seven minutes remaining, as Trimble ran an impeccable diagonal line to pick up the last of a succession of quick, short passes, rip the Scarlets defence asunder and cross the whitewash. Darren Cave converted this time, and Ulster, now exuberant, had time not only to secure the bonus point, but add a fifth score to further rub salt into the Scarlets' wounds.
The first came in the form as a penalty try, with Thomas adjudged to have unfairly solicited the ball from Jackson as the out-half shaped to make the final pass for the score - an offence for which the Scarlets' out-half was yellow-carded. The second was a textbook second row try, McComb driving over from a maul on 78 minutes for his first ever Ulster try. Jackson converted both and, although the visitors grabbed a late consolation in the dying seconds through Scott Williams, the result - and the clear 30-point gulf on the night - was definitive.
Full-Time Score Ulster 47 Scarlets 17
(15 - 9) A D'Arcy; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) T Court, R Herring, A Macklin, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry (c), N Williams
Replacements (16- 23) N Annett, C Black, J Afoa, N McComb, R Wilson, M Heaney, P Wallace, R Andrew
(15 - 9) D Newton; G North, G Maule, J Davies, K Phillips; A Thomas, T Knoyle
(1 - 8) P John, E Phillips, J Adriaanse, S Timani, R Kelly, J Turnbull, J Edwards, R McCusker (c)
Replacements (16 - 23) K Myhill, R Jones, D Manu, T Vallejos, C Price, G Davies, S Williams, A Warren
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|
|Scarlets Score Card|