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.
Ulster coach Mark McCall admitted his side played some of their best rugby in the second 20 minutes at Netherdale on Friday, but they were left hanging on for a 20-19 victory after Borders substitute Jonny Weston scored a late try for the Scots.
Nevertheless, the meaning of this one-point victory will not be lost on McCall, who has watched his charges go winless in their last four outings since David Humphreys kicked them to a 19-13 success at Connacht's Sportsground in September.
"I'm delighted with the win - it was absolutely vital for us," said the former Ireland centre McCall.
"There's been different problems in different matches, but I'm very pleased with how the pack went tonight, our rolling maul was very effective and I think we probably played the game a bit tighter and more direct than we have done of late, and that certainly helped."
After Charlie Hore had struck an early Borders penalty, New Zealand centre Paul Steinmetz seized on a chip ahead after Joe Pattison had eased up, for Ulster's first try. Bryan Cunningham added a second before the break, with Borders lock Mark Blair in the sin-bin, and Adam Larkin's two penalties handed the visitors a 20-6 half time.
Despite having number 8 Kelly Brown yellow-carded early in the second period, Borders came back into contention with two Ally Warnock penalties and Weston's try, but it proved too late for the league's bottom side.
Next up for Ulster is the visit of the Cardiff Blues to Ravenhill on Friday, and a chance to earn their first win in five league outings at the Belfast ground.
McCall added: "Losing at home has been very unusual for us because last year we couldn't win on the road and we were unbeatable at home.
"Our performances at home have been very disappointing and we're desperate to show our fans what we're capable of."
Scorers: Try: Jonny Weston; Con: Ally Warnock; Pens: Charlie Hore, Warnock 3 Ulster: Tries: Paul Steinmetz, Bryn Cunningham; Cons: Adam Larkin; Pens: Larkin 2
15 - Bryn Cunningham 14 - Andrew Maxwell 13 - Jonny Bell 12 - Paul Steinmetz 11 - Tyrone Howe 10 - Adam Larkin 9 - Kieran Campbell 1 - Simon Best 2 - Paul Shields 3 - Rod Moore 4 - Rowan Frost 5 - Matt McCullough 6 - Andy Ward (Captain) 7 - Neil Best 8 - Campbell Feather
16 - Gary Brown 17 - Ronan McCormack 18 - Gary Longwell 19 - Gary Brown 20 - Neil Doak 21 - Scott Young 22 - Tommy Bowe