12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Tries from Neil Best, James Topping and substitute scrum half Isaac Boss helped Ulster to a 27-0 win over Border Reivers on Saturday - a result which sees them siting just a point behind Munster.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Saturday, October 15
Border Reivers 0 Ulster 27, Netherdale (Att: 1,857)
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Neil Best, James Topping, Isaac Boss; Cons: David Humphreys 3; Pens: Humphreys 2
Two of the league's form horses met at a sparsely populated Netherdale and it was Ulster who reigned supreme, ending the Scottish side's three-game winning streak.
It was one-sided and perhaps not the hard battle Ulster coach Mark McCall would have likened before this Friday's visit of Benetton Treviso to Ravenhill in the Heineken Cup. Still, a win is a win and the momentum of Saturday's jaunt could be a factor for the men in white over the next two European weekends.
Ulster made themselves right at home from the kick-off and but for young winger Tommy Bowe losing his footing when attacking with just one man to beat, it could have been a perfect start.
They got the scoreboard ticking on 18 minutes when Andrew Trimble forced a penalty five metres from the home line. Lions scrum half was sent to the sin-bin for deliberately killing the ball and David Humphreys kicked his first of two penalties.
Neil Best then went close on two occasions at nabbing the game's first try. The Belfast Harlequins flanker's second attempt, a race to the left corner saw him just bundled into touch at the death by Reivers' fly half Charlie Hore.
It took another sin-binning for a Borders player - the 36th-minute saw centre Ben MacDougall carded for a ruck infringement - for Ulster to finally get the game's first try. A big tackle by Trimble on Calum MacRae caused a turnover and with the Scots' defence in tatters, Best;s overlap run was rewarded with a try - his fourth try in four games.
Humphreys added a superb touchline conversion, and with Hore missing an injury-time penalty, Ulster had a 10-0 lead to take into the break.
New Zealander Isaac Boss came on for Kieran Campbell at scrum half at half-time and added much to Ulster's attacking qualities.
On 49 minutes, winger James Topping was sent haring through on a flat pass from Humphreys for Ulster's second try, and Ulster's number 10 did well again to tag on the conversion.
Humphreys added his second penalty, five minutes later, and Boss emphasized Ulster's control on the game on 72 minutes when he side-stepped his way through from 15 metres for his first try for the province.
Highly-rated Dungannon back row Stephen Ferris was subbed on for the final ten minutes of action and acquitted himself well, but a bonus point fourth try was tantalising out of Ulster's grasp.
REIVERS: Calum MacRae; Simon Danielli (Stuart Moffat 78), Ben MacDougall, Garry Law, Nikki Walker; Charlie Hore, Chris Cusiter; Paul Thomson (Capt), Ross Ford (Stephen Scott 51), Bruce Douglas, Mark Blair (John Dalziel 60), Colin Stewart, Andy Rennick (Scott Gray 51), Andy Miller (Wayne McEntee 60), Kelly Brown.
ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham (Paddy Wallace 74); Tommy Bowe, Kevin Maggs, Andrew Trimble (Andrew Maxwell 59-70), James Topping; David Humphreys, Kieran Campbell (Isaac Boss half-time); Justin Fitzpatrick (Bryan Young 68), Rory Best (Paul Shields 74-80), Simon Best (Capt), Justin Harrison, Matt McCullough (Rowan Frost 72), Neil Best, Neil McMillan, Roger Wilson (Stephen Ferris 72).
Referee: Phil Fear (Wales); Sin-bin: Chris Cusiter (Reivers) (18 mins), Ben MacDougall (Reivers) (36)