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Ulster paid the perfect tribute to Nevin Spence as they recorded a bonus-point 48-19 success over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park to make it four wins from four this season and move top of the RaboDirect PRO12.
Spence passed away in tragic circumstances with his brother Graham and father Noel a fortnight ago and the game was preceded by an immaculately observed minute’s silence.
However the match also marked Tommy Bowe’s return in Ulster colours and the Irish international winger came back with a bang, scoring two tries, to add to a double from the rampaging Nick Williams.
Mike Allen, Jared Payne and Andrew Trimble also crossed for the visitors, with Paddy Jackson adding 13 points with the boot while the Blues could only manage one try through winger Harry Robinson.
Ulster made an understandably slow start in difficult circumstances and Jason Tovey gave the Blues an early lead with a penalty after just two minutes.
Cardiff then came within inches of scoring the first try of the match when Tom James produced a searing break before kicking behind the Ulster defence but the bounce of the ball led to a knock-on from Sam Warburton.
However the Blues continued to put the visitors under pressure and added another three points through the boot of Tovey when Ulster were penalised for straying offside.
Ulster looked to be struggling to cope with the occasion however they were on the board after ten minutes when the Blues scrum was penalised and Jackson slotted the resulting kick.
That seemed to inspire the visitors and they were almost in from a move which started with a Williams charge only for Tovey to be penalised for offside.
But it was only temporary respite as Ulster gambled and went for the scrum and when the ball was spread wide centre Allen just about battled his way over – injuring himself in the process.
Jackson converted but Cardiff hit back immediately with another Tovey penalty to make it 10-9 midway through the half.
The Ulster pack was beginning to turn the screw and from a scrum Paul Marshall sprinted down the left-hand side passed to Iain Henderson before the powerful Williams crashed over for their second try – again converted by Jackson to make it 17-9.
The Blues were then dealt another blow with Tovey forced off with a suspected broken leg – to be replaced by Gareth Davies just before the break as the home side trailed by eight.
Cardiff were again quicker out of the blocks in the second half and pulled back three points through Davies.
But virtually from the kick-off the ball was spread beautifully by Jackson and when Bowe was given the opportunity he rounded James to grab his first try since his Ulster return.
Jackson missed the difficult conversion, and another penalty a minute later, as Ulster led 22-12.
And they secured the bonus point just 12 minutes into the second half when Payne produced a moment of magic, chipping over the Blues defence and collecting to go over, Jackson’s conversion stretching the lead to 29-12.
The Blues’ defence was beginning to fall apart and Bowe took advantage to race in the visitors’ fifth and his second try two minutes later.
Cardiff needed a response and they got exactly that through Robinson. The Ulster defence was stretched and some quick hands through the Blues backline gave the Welsh international some space out wide to cross for the home side’s first try of the night.
But Robinson’s try didn’t signal the start of a comeback as Ulster hit straight back through Williams after a scintillating break by replacement wing Craig Gilroy – Jackson added the conversion.
And there was still time for a final score from Ireland winger Trimble who sprinted under the posts to rub salt into the wounds.