The sense of unity and togetherness shown by the Ulster players in recent weeks shone through at the Arms Park as they paid tribute to Nevin Spence with a performance full of precision, passion and pride.
Chris Henry, standing in as captain for the injured Johann Muller, said that the Ulstermen were determined to honour their late team-mate on their return to RaboDirect PRO12 action.
“The only thing that mattered out there tonight was the rugby. That was the way Nevin would have wanted it,” he told reporters afterwards.
“We have his name on our shirt now, the initials ‘NS’, and that will stay right with us through the season. If you ask any player Nev was with us out there tonight.”
The seven-try success in Cardiff was Ulster’s fourth straight victory since the start of the new season and saw the province climb to the top of the table ahead of the round 5 games on Saturday.
17-9 ahead at the interval, Ulster turned on the style in the second half with the returning Tommy Bowe bagging a brace of tries, Nick Williams completed his own double and Jared Payne and Andrew Trimble also got in on the try-scoring act.
The dignity and strength shown by the Spence family in such tragic circumstances, as they cope with the losses of Nevin, Noel and Graham, has been a huge inspiration to Mark Anscombe’s side. Muller said so during the week and Henry also mentioned it post-match.
“Seeing how the Spence family had dealt with the tragedy, we could not have responded any other way than the way we have (here),” added the Ireland back rower.
“Everyone involved in Ulster Rugby has to take credit for the professional way we have gone about our business. Yes, the situation is still raw with us and it was emotional tonight and it will be again.
“It is not something that is ever going to go away from us easily and we have to use it in the best way and hopefully we did Nev proud tonight.”
Ravenhill is sure to be packed for next Friday’s interprovincial derby between Ulster and a Connacht side that upset Leinster 34-6. Tickets for the game are available here.