Pienaar off-key for poor Ulster
SCARLETS 17 ULSTER 9
Ulster slipped to a third defeat of the Pro12 campaign after an uncharacteristic slump at Parc y Scarlets. Ruan Pienaar kicked all their nine points but his wayward display summed up a disappointing performance from the northerners.
George Earle capped a dominant display by the Scarlets pack with the only try of the game while Ulster's run of six successive wins crashed to a halt with two yellow cards in the second half.
A strong wind made kicking something of a lottery and even the normally accurate Pienaar struggled to get to grips with a breeze which even made passing difficult at times. Though he kicked the game's opening points, it was the only time in a closely contested first half that Ulster were on the front foot.
Nick Williams was fortunate not to have been binned by half-time following a series of warnings from Alain Rolland, and following one of those exchanges Scarlets scored the game's only try. Steven Shingler kicked the penalty to the corner and for once, Ulster lost their cohesion in defence as the home pack rumbled over from 10 yards out.
Replacement Aled Thomas kicked Scarlets 11-3 ahead before half-time, though Ulster would have been satisfied given their hosts' dominance, particularly in the scrum.
Pienaar continued to blow hot and cold, to the undoubted delight of the Welsh management ahead of Saturday's Test at the Millennium Stadium. The Springbok was off target early in the second half and, while he converted a second effort moments later, he failed to exert his usual influence on the game and was eventually switched to scrum-half.
David McIlwaine was binned for not releasing and Thomas kicked Scarlets 14-6 ahead. Yet, against the run of play, Ulster still had chances but after kicking his third penalty, Pienaar missed from in front of the posts eight minutes from time and Roger Wilson was shown a yellow card for kicking out recklessly. Any hopes of salvaging an unlikely win went with him to the bin.
Scorers – Scarlets: Earle try, Thomas 3 pens, Shingler pen. Ulster: Pienaar 3 pens.
Scarlets: G Owen, N Reynolds, G Maule, A Warren, J Williams; S Shingler (A Thomas 37), G Davies; P John (capt), K Myhill, S Lee, J Ball, G Earle, A Shingler, J Turnbull (J Barclay 13), S Timani.
Ulster: J Payne (capt), M Allen (D McIlwaine 61), D Cave, C Farrell, A Trimble; R Pienaar, P Marshall (J McKinney 56); C Black, R Herring, J Afoa, L Stevenson, N McComb (M McComish 71), R Diack, R Wilson, N Williams.
Referee: A Rolland (IRFU)