Ulster made a solid start to their Heineken Cup Pool 4 campaign on Friday night as Italian side Benetton Treviso were beaten 27-0 at a jam-packed Ravenhill.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 4: Friday, October 21
Ulster 27 Benetton Treviso 0, Ravenhill (Att: 12,252)
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Roger Wilson, Neil Best, Neil McMillan, Kevin Maggs; Cons: David Humphreys 2; Pen: Humphreys
Ulster were the only province to win their Heineken Cup opener and the only team of Europe's elite to whitewash their opponents on the first weekend.
The final result belies what a scramble it was for Mark McCall's side to secure their bonus point for four tries. But having not qualified for the competition's knock-out stages since lifting the title back in 1999, winning ugly will do for a resurgent Ulster outfit.
Ulster's back row unit of Roger Wilson, Neil Best and Neil McMillan all touched down with Ireland centre Kevin Maggs also bagging a late try. Treviso had little to offer in return save for a few snipes from lightning-quick full-back Brendan Williams.
Biarritz lie in wait for Ulster next Saturday at the Parc des Sports Aquilera and the Basque side's 22-10 loss at Saracens yesterday will ensure Thomas Lievremont and his players are suitably keyed in for a home win.
Treviso are in a different world to Biarritz but the four-try success, albeit with new scrum half Issac Boss retiring early with a calf injury, on Friday will be a good starting block for McCall and company.
Riding high in second in the Celtic League, Ulster went 3-0 up after only five minutes thanks to a penalty from fly half David Humphreys.
On 19 minutes, a concerted series of drives, helped by a jinking run from Boss, saw number 8 Wilson dive in for the opening try which Humphreys added the extras to. Had winger James Topping noticed his Ballymena club mate Andrew Trimble in a good deal of space, four minutes later, the white-shirted masses could have been toasting a second try.
As it was, French referee Jean-Pierre Matheu took over the final quarter of the first half. A melee, two minutes before the half hour, saw prop Justin Fitzpatrick, starting his first European game since returning from Castres, sin-binned after grappling with Silvio Orlando and Salvatore Costanzo while the former wrestled with Neil Best on the ground.
The 14 men held onto their 10-0 lead into the half-time interval, although just after Fitzpatrick had returned, try-scorer Wilson earned an unnecessary yellow card for holding onto the ball in the tackle. Moments later, Treviso hooker Fabio Ongaro was also sent to the sin-bin by Matheu for a ruck offence as the first half ended in a stormy fashion.
The Ulster dynamo took a while to crack up in the second half - flanker McMillan had a 53rd minute try disallowed for a double movement, but hree minutes later Ulster made a lineout take and drive count as Neil Best was driven over for his fifth try in seven outings. Humphreys narrowly failed to add the points.
Another lineout drive saw McMillan surge over with five minutes remaining for Ulster's third try and with the score at 22-0, Andrew Trimble took control of a loose ball to send his midfield partner Maggs into the clear and over.
ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; Tommy Bowe, Kevin Maggs, Andrew Trimble, James Topping; David Humphreys, Issac Boss; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best, Simon Best (capt), Justin Harrison, Matt McCullough, Neil Best, Neil McMillan, Roger Wilson.
Replacements used: Reece Spee for Boss (22 mins), Bryan Young for Wilson (29-39), Paul Steinmetz for Topping (59), Nigel Brady for R Best, Campbell Feather for Best (both 79), Ryan Caldwell for Harrison (80). Not used: Paddy Wallace.
TREVISO: Brendan Williams; Denis Dallan, Stuart Legg, Matteo Barbini, Massimiliano Perziano; Michael Smith, Alessandro Troncon (capt), Augusto Allori, Fabio Ongaro, Salvatore Costanzo, Enrico Pavanello, Marco Wentzel, Scott Palmer, Dion Kingi, Silvio Orlando.
Replacements: Alvaro Tejeda for Kingi (40+2-49 mins), Simon Picone for Troncon (47-48), Antonio Pavanello for E Pavanello, Salvatore Garozzo for Palmer (both 60), Hernan Mazino for Costanzo (65), Walter Pozzebon for Dallan (66), Picone for Troncon, Costanzo for Allori (both 73), Willem Adrian Wium for Kingi (79).
Referee: Jean-Pierre Matheu (France); Sin-Bin: J Fitzpatrick (Ulster) (28 mins), R Wilson (Ulster) (40+1), F Ongaro (Treviso) (40+2).