Ulster ‘A’ consolidated their position at the top of Pool 1 in the British & Irish Cup with a 38-21 bonus point victory over London Scottish at Kingspan Stadium tonight.
It was London Scottish who made the brighter start when, on six minutes, a powerful maul took them up close enough for flanker Danny Kenny to drive over from close range. Full-back Peter Lydon confidently struck over the conversion to make it 7-0 to the visitors.
It took Ulster 'A' until the 14th minute to open their account when out-half Johnny McPhillips made the most of some good fortune as an attempted kick through was deflected into the hands of David Busby who fed out-half McPhillips to slide over in the left corner.
Six minutes later, Lorcan Dow put the Ulstermen in front when the young number 8 picked up a loose ball and dived over, following a Conor Joyce break off lineout possession. McPhillips added the extras to make it Ulster 12-7 to Ulster 'A'.
The visitors responded on 26 minutes when they benefited from another strong maul with prop Dan Koroi crashing over before Lydon added another successful conversion to edge his side in front.
McPhillips had one more opportunity on the cusp of half-time but his long range penalty attempt dropped just short and right, meaning London Scottish went in with a 14-12 lead at the interval.
It was the home side who came out of the blocks fastest in the second half with a try from a maul of their own, hooker Jonny Murphy coming up with the ball.
Coaches Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson would have been delighted to see their team pocket the bonus point in the 56th minute. A flowing move saw influential winger Craig Gilroy eat up some open space before releasing centre and captain Darren Cave to finish off in the left corner. Mark Best notched the conversion to open up a 24-14 lead for the hosts.
Seven minutes later, Cave got his second try with an almost carbon copy of the first, Gilroy making the break and feeding his skipper to complete his brace in crisp fashion. Cave's centre partner Best added another conversion to put some daylight between the sides.
Scottish responded impressively on 68 minutes when flanker Joe Atkinson brushed off the province's rearguard and powered over to touch down under the posts. Lydon hastily kicked the conversion and reduced the deficit to 31-21.
However, lively Ulster 'A' winger Busby staved off any thoughts of a comeback when he darted in from the left to dot down before Best added his third conversion of the evening to put the result beyond doubt.
In the final minutes London Scottish piled on the pressure but, much to the pleasure of the Ulster coaching team, the home defence remained resolute, holding out their opponents and denying them their own bonus point try.
Campbell and Anderson's charges, who now hold a six-point lead at the top of the pool, will travel to Jersey Reds next Saturday in round 6 (kick-off 2pm). Second-placed Jersey could close the gap to a single point when they visit bottom side Cardiff tomorrow.
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)