The Ulster ‘A’ team face an uphill battle to make the last-eight of the British & Irish Cup after a disappointing 23-7 defeat by the Scarlets Premiership Select at Eaton Park.
It took the home side just five minutes to get the game's opening try. From a five-metre scrum they won a penalty and elected for another set piece, they got the drive on and with Stephen Mulholland controlling the base, the Scarlets collapsed and referee Chris Ridley awarded a penalty try which out-half Sam Windsor converted.
Alex Codling's men should have had a second try on 28 minutes. Willie Faloon put Mark Best through a gap in midfield, he was dragged down close to the line, John Andrew made a few metres before prop Jonny Simpson was illegally stopped inches short which earned Scarlets flanker Shaun Evans a yellow card.
From the resulting scrum, Ulster 'A' worked the ball out wide but could not breach the Welsh side's defence. The visitors finished the first half in the ascendency and were unlucky not to get a late try.
Following a quick tap penalty by scrum half Kieran Hardy, the ball was moved wide and Dion Jones put in a grubber kick behind the Ulster 'A' defence. Winger Gavin Thomas thought he had grounded the ball successfully but it was ruled to have been in touch.
Despite have the aid of the elements during the opening 40 minutes, Ulster 'A' had to settle for a 7-0 lead at the break.
However, there was no denying Thomas a second time when he crossed just eight minutes after the restart. A series of well-worked phases in the Scarlets' 22 saw Ulster 'A' create an overlap, Windsor passed to Adam Liddell but the winger could not hold it and Thomas raced the length of the pitch to go under the posts with Dan Jones' conversion levelling matters.
Dan Jones nudged the visitors in front on 54 minutes after Ulster 'A' were caught offside in front of their own posts. The out-half knocked over the simple penalty for 10-7.
Things got worse for the provinces just five minutes later when young full-back Robert Lyttle was sin-binned for tripping Thomas after the Scarlets winger had chipped the ball past him. Dan Jones increased the visitors' lead from the resulting penalty.
The Scarlets number 10 added his third penalty in the 64th minute, punishing Ulster 'A' for not rolling away at the ruck in their own 22, and they sealed the win with a second try 12 minutes from the end.
Their forwards drove to create an overlap and Jordan Williams threw a long looping pass to the wing for Dion Jones to run in unopposed. Dan Jones converted for a 16-point winning margin in Ballymena.
Referee: Chris Ridley (England)