...Stephen Jones and Paddy Wallace compete for possession at Ravenhill...
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, September 2
ULSTER 31 LLANELLI SCARLETS 16, Ravenhill
Scorers: Ulster: Try: David Humphreys, Paul Steinmetz, Mark Bartholomeusz; Cons: Humphreys 2; Pens: Humphreys 4
Llanelli: Try: Darren Daniel; Con: Stephen Jones; Pens: Jones 3
Full-time: It's all over at Ravenhill as the champions get their title defence off to a winning start. 20 unanswered points see McCall's men take a 31-16 victory and extend their unbeaten run in the league to 11 games. Paul Steinmetz is named as the Bank of Ireland man of the match. Some good performances in the backs and forwards for Ulster - Dawson did particularly well when he came on and what can you say about Humphreys. Scored a try, created another, landed six kicks and directed the play in a commanding fashion - just another day at the office for the soon to be 35-year-old
79 mins: ULSTER TRY! Ulster sew up the win as Australian winger Mark Bartholomeusz gets over for a try on his debut. Llanelli were forcing the issue, but a couple of lacklustre passes in the Ulster 22 saw replacement Ceiron Thomas spill the ball into Bartholomeusz's hands and he raced unopposed to the Llanelli line. Humphreys converts the interception score and it's game, set and match to the men in white. Ulster 31 Llanelli 16
75 mins: Good tackle from full-back Bryn Cunningham puts danger man Daniel, who looks a serious prospect, into touch
73 mins: The usually reliable Jones misses the left-sided kick from close range to the delight of the Ravenhill faithful
71 mins: An interchange between King and James puts try scorer Daniel haring through a midfield gap. The move peters out on the left flank but Ulster offer Llanelli a penalty chance in the next phase. They opt for the posts
65 mins: ULSTER TRY! Fantastic vision from Humphreys as he sends a perfectly weighted chip towards the Llanelli line, dangling the carrot for Steinmetz to dart through, collect the ball and slide over for try number two. The Llanelli defence was caght completely flat footed. Much credit for the score goes to the Ulster pack who trundled forward, making 30 metres with a lineout maul in the previous phase with Dawson at the base. Humphreys converts. Ulster 24 Llanelli 16
62 mins: The rain is beginning to fall in Belfast and the heat is on Llanelli full-back Thomas again as he knocks on when attempting to retrieve a booming kick from Steinmetz
60 mins: A lengthy run from King sees the New Zealander bring play up towards the Ulster 22. Kevin Maggs is on for Ulster, replacing Wallace
57 mins: ULSTER PENALTY! Humphreys converts the penalty - his fourth - to push the title holders into the lead against the 2004 league winners. Ulster 17 Llanelli 16
55 mins: Steinmetz follows up well on a Humphreys kick ahead. Full-back Martyn Thomas dithers on the ball and fails to release it on the deck - Ulster penalty. Two phases earlier, the Ulster scrum, with Declan Fitzpatrick on for Court, shunted the Scarlets off their own ball. That's one for Monday's video session!
51 mins: Humphreys misses a penalty attempt from wide out on the left after prop Phil John was adjudged to have led with his elbow when coming in at a ruck
48 mins: Ulster make two changes with flanker Kieron Dawson and lock Matt McCullough coming onto the field - McMillan and Barker are the players to make way. Great to see McCullough back from the near fatal car crash he had in America during the summer. He needed 120 stitches to repair his head wounds!
45 mins: Jones misses a quickly-taken drop goal attempt, but Ulster cough up possession as there are players marginally ahead of Humphreys when he takes his 22 drop out. Ulster defend well nonetheless, and Humphreys brings play up into the Llanelli half
44 mins: ULSTER PENALTY! Humphreys dinks over the penalty to make it a two-point game. Ulster 14 Llanelli 16
43 mins: Ulster up the tempo, both Humphreys and Wallace are attacking the gain line with Roger Wilson, Shields and newcomer Tom Court making the hard yards. A penalty from just inside the Llanelli 22 is their reward
Second Half: Kick-Off: The crowd cranks up the atmosphere with a rendition of 'Stand up for the Ulster men' as Jones restarts the game
...Tim Barker beats Lou Reed to a lineout ball...
Half-time: The sides head in for the break with Llanelli 16-11 ahead and much the happier, especially as their Academy graduates have so far justified Phil Davies' faith in them. Ulster will have to work very hard to turn this one around but they have the players to do it. The Scarlets gave away very few penalties in the first half but that could change. A worrying stat for the Welsh is that they have not won a fixture in Ireland for a full 17 months. Connacht were the last side to fall to them
40+3 mins: Ulster are a tad fortunate as a Jones chip over the top is whistled up by referee Andy Ireland as full-back Martyn Thomas was ruled to had been ahead of the kicker
40 mins: It's one up for the backs as Maxwell succeeds in turning Scarlets number 8 Nathan Thomas in the tackle and winning a penalty for the home side. However, coach McCall will be worried that the visitors' pacy backline was allowed the lattitude, with Dwayne Peel and King impressing again, to make the guts of 20 metres
37 mins: ULSTER PENALTY! Ulster hit back with a Harrison lineout take seeing Tim Barker used as a battering ram up the middle - he draws the penalty as the Scarlets are found guilty of hands in the ruck. Humphreys is successful with the penalty from the 22-metre line. Ulster 11 Llanelli 16
33 mins: LLANELLI PENALTY! Indiscipline causes Ulster as backchat from Justin Harrison allows Jones an easier shot at goal and he takes his record for the night to four successes from five, whalloping over from 40 metres out. Ulster 8 Llanelli 16
31 mins: Ulster hooker Paul Shields is caught by what looks a professional foul by Tongan Inoke Afeaki - a very heavy tackle off the ball. On the ball was Steinmetz, but he was swamped in a tackle by his fellow Kiwi King. Their midfield battle will be one to watch
29 mins: Humphreys pushes the Llanelli pack back into their 22 with a well-judged kick out to the right. The Llanelli lineout is a solid one and they clear their lines
25 mins: Another sweet pass from King sees Jones burst through Ulster's defensive line but the hosts get back and force the Welsh to concede a penalty for their out-half holding on on the deck
22 mins: LLANELLI TRY! The visitors are all business as Wales Under-19 international Darren Daniel gets in for the game's first try to rock Ulster back onto their heels. There was great slight of hand from lock Scott Macleod who flicked the ball away off his right hand for the supporting Daniel to sprint clear and chip over the top. He beats Andrew Maxwell to the bouncing ball. Jones converts to make it a seven-pointer. Ulster 8 Llanelli 13
20 mins: After a good run by former Lion Dafydd James, set up by a skip pass from Regan King, Llanelli gain another kickable penalty but Jones rams it off the post
18 mins: LLANELLI PENALTY! The Welsh side's recovery continues as Jones clips over the penalty from right on the 22-metre line, to the right of the posts. Ulster 8 Llanelli 6
16 mins: Good spell of possession for Llanelli as they try to probe the flanks. Jones sends a long pass out to the right wing with youngster Darren Daniel and hooker Matthew Rees bringing play up to the Ulster 22. The next phase sees McMillan offside and Ulster are penalised
13 mins: LLANELLI PENALTY! Jones redeems himself by slotting over a left-sided penalty after a ruck offence from Ulster. Ulster 8 Llanelli 3
10 mins: ULSTER TRY! It gets even better for McCall's side as Humphreys gets in for a quick fire try. From the restart, the Scarlets are put under pressure again. Lou Reed does well to take a lineout, 15 metres from his line, the ball is worked back to Stephen Jones but the Wales out-half is surprisingly charged down by Neil McMillan and Humphreys wins the race to the loose ball to touch down. The conversion is missed by the former Ireland number 10. Ulster 8 Llanelli 0
9 mins: ULSTER PENALTY! Humphreys converts the resultant penalty from just outside the 22 and from the right. The champions are off to a lively start. Ulster 3 Llanelli 0
7 mins: Territorially, Ulster are well on top. From a lineout maul, the Welsh side are forced to concede the first kickable penalty
5 mins: The fit-again Stephen Ferris, back after an ankle operation, goes on a bulldozing run into the Llanelli 22. Lots of leg-pumping to the delight of the crowd. Another turnover sees the move peter out
1 minute: It does not take long for the Ulster backline to test the defensive capabilities of Llanelli's Academy players. Humphreys passes to Paul Steinmetz, with Paddy Wallace going on a decoy run, and the New Zealander shrugs off the tackle of Gavin Evans to break into the visitors' 22. What was a good move is spoiled by a turnover however
Kick-Off: David Humphreys gets the game underway on a clear, crisp evening in Belfast
Team News: Ulster have been boosted by the news that recently retired Ireland out-half David Humphreys has shaken off a shoulder injury to start against the Scarlets.
The only change coach Mark McCall has made to the side that beat Rotherham Titans in a frinedly last week is the return of Roger Wilson to the number 8 berth. Wilson is available for selection again after his suspension from the Churchill Cup. New signing Kieron Dawson is the player to drop to the bench, although Ulster's other summer purchases, prop Tom Court, lock Tim Barker and winger Mark Bartholomeusz all start.
Llanelli are without their skipper Simon Easterby due to a head injury, however they can bank on the experience of Wales out-half Stephen Jones, who has returned from his spell in France with Clermont Auvergne.
Owing to injuries, the Scarlets' line-up includes four players from the region's Academy: full-back Martyn Thomas, lock Lou Reed, winger Darren Daniel and centre Gavin Evans.
Ulster: Bryn Cunningham; Mark Bartholomeusz, Paul Steinmetz, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Maxwell; David Humphreys, Kieran Campbell; Justin Fitzpatrick, Paul Shields, Tom Court, Justin Harrison (capt), Tim Barker, Stephen Ferris, Neil McMillan, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Matt McCullough, Kieron Dawson, Paul Marshall, Kevin Maggs, Scott Young.
Llanelli: Martyn Thomas; Dafydd James, Regan King, Gavin Evans, Darren Daniel; Stephen Jones, Dwayne Peel (capt); Phil John, Matthew Rees, John Davies, Lou Reed, Scott Macleod, Inoke Afeaki, Gavin Thomas, Nathan Thomas.
Replacements: Craig Dunlea, Ken Owens, Adam Jones, Alix Popham, Clive Stuart-Smith, Ceiron Thomas, Matthew Watkins.
Referee: Andy Ireland (Scotland)
Touch Judges: David Keane, Eanna O'Dowd (both Ireland)