24 May, 14:08
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However, a try from former Munster back rower Nick Williams inspired Aironi and the Italians were only 15-13 behind at the break.
Brian McLaughlin's men were coming under more pressure when South African Naas Olivier booted his third successful penalty to edge the hosts in front.
A losing bonus point was all they had in their grasp at full-time though, despite Olivier taking his tally to 14 points.
Craig Gilroy's 55th-minute try was enough for Ulster claim their second win of the campaign, a result which the province's defence coach Jonny Bell agreed they had to work hard for.
"We're delighted to come away with the win, but we're a little bit disappointed not to capitalise on the opportunities that we had to get the bonus point at the end.
"It's obviously very draining playing in that kind of heat and with the attritional nature of the Aironi team, the contact point is going to crucial.
"Today, that battle at the gainline was energy-sapping. Some decisions were made at certain stages that put us under a bit of pressure but fair play to the boys, they worked very, very hard today in difficult conditions and we got the win."
He added: "We had a little bit of a bad patch in the middle of the game where we didn't really control possession and we didn't get ourselves in territorial areas that allowed us to apply pressure.
"But we finished strongly, our fitness and strength levels are good and we are very positive moving forward are looking forward to Cardiff at home next weekend."
Out-halves Olivier and Ian Humphreys were given early chances to get on the scoreboard but both players missed with penalty attempts from relatively straightforward positions.
Ulster were intent on playing with width and it nearly paid off when a clever chip kick by Humphreys almost created an opportunity for Nevin Spence, but the centre was bundled into touch by the covering defenders.
The province continued to look for openings and at the midway point of the first half, Whitten scored the game's first try after a great spell of phase play.
Humphreys cut an excellent angle off Adam D'Arcy to bring play towards the hosts' 22, and Pedrie Wannenburg drove the ball on further before Willie Faloon's pass found Whitten in the corner.
Indiscipline by Ulster allowed Olivier to reduce the deficit, but Ulster wasted no time in replying with a second try. Humphreys was again influential in the build-up, first kicking and then supplying a delightful flat pass in a move that resulted in lock Tuohy scoring on the right.
Humphreys fired over a terrific touchline conversion to make it 12-3. Stung into action, Aironi fought back in the ten minutes leading up to half-time.
Their inside centre Gabriel Pizarro to the fore with some strong carries. Number 8 Williams forced his way over beside the posts after a very good scrum from the Italians. Olivier had no problems in converting to reduce the margin to two points again.
He then struck a long range penalty to give his side a 13-12 lead but, not to be outdone, Humphreys landed one of his own from almost 60 metres out to close out the first half's scoring.
Ulster's indiscipline cost them at the start of the second half as Olivier converted a penalty after a scrum infringement. Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick and Lewis Stevenson were introduced shortly afterwards as the heat started to take its toll.
A piece of magic from Paul Marshall, who ran a full 60 metres, brought play deep into Aironi's half, and after a couple of phases, young winger Gilroy crossed the whitewash for his side's third try.
Humphreys' conversion was initially signalled wide by the assistant referees but referee Neil Hennessy overruled them and the two points were added to Ulster's total.
Humphreys saw a penalty attempt sail wide of the posts but made amends with another long range strike to extend the advantage to nine points.
Ulster continued to press for a bonus point try but handling errors and poor decision making left them frustrated. Oliver got Aironi into losing bonus point territory at 25-19, after Jerry Cronin was yellow carded for a ruck offence.
That brought Aironi right back into the game. With Cronin off the pitch, the 21-year-old Adam Macklin came on to win his first senior cap and he held up well in the scrum.
Ulster turned down the chance to kick a late penalty and ran the ball in search of that elusive fourth try, but ultimately another handing error cost them.
|Aironi Rugby Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|