Fightback against Scarlets gives Ulster fresh incentive
Scarlets 32 Ulster 32
It says plenty about the resilience around Ulster rugby that they could pull off a result such as this after the opening 60 minutes and a summer of upheaval at Kingspan Stadium.
Trailing 32-18 and having already allowed Scarlets a bonus point, there were fears this could have been a sombre start to the new season for the Ulstermen.
However, caretaker coach Les Kiss now knows exactly where improvements must be made and what he has at his disposal.
Kiss found salvation amid his replacements. Declan Fitzpatrick steadied the scrum, Nick Williams provided new impetus and Andrew Trimble provided a clinical edge.
The latter pair, in particular, galvanised an impressive comeback while Scarlets took their foot off the pedal.
Williams' surge eventually led to Ian Humphreys sending new full-back Louis Ludik through for a try on his debut. Another barnstorming break by the No 8 led to Scarlets' Wales full-back Liam Williams receiving a second yellow card and from the resulting scrum, Michael Heaney sent Trimble over for a bonus point. Humphreys converted both tries to snatch the draw.
"Llanelli is always a tough place to come so to come back the way we did shows character and is also credit to the conditioning staff," Humphreys said.
"We finished strong, we were going well and we were a little frustrated that we didn't get a penalty right at the end to win it. Perhaps that's being greedy, but had the game gone on any longer, we felt confident we could have won it.
"The bench really worked well and showed just how much strength we have now in the squad. We have people competing for every position. It bodes well for the season, especially when the international boys are away."
Kiss arrived following a summer of departures from Ulster. This result could be the start of the rebuilding process.
"It is day one after a lot of changes over the summer at the Kingspan so there are plenty of positives," said Humphreys. "We are all professional, there has been continuity in the [majority of] the coaching staff and the players know what is expected of them. The international lads know Les and that he's a top-quality coach, so we're all looking forward. There's still a good feeling around the place."