Pienaar turns attention to Clermont challenge
Cardiiff Blues 22 Ulster 35
Ruan Pienaar believes Ulster are primed and ready to tackle a formidable Clermont Auvergne side after getting back to winning ways against Cardiff Blues.
The Springboks scrum-half delivered a virtuoso performance to orchestrate a 35-22 bonus-point triumph in the Welsh capital.
A first-half blitz with tries from Charles Piutau, Stuart McCloskey and Kyle McCall had the game wrapped up before the break.
Kristian Dacey kept the hosts in it, but Chris Henry bagged the bonus point before Louis Ludik ensured his men would rise above Glasgow Warriors to fifth place in the Guinness Pro12.
Arms Park favourite Nicky Robinson led a late comeback to set up Alex Cuthbert and Willis Halaholo, but the damage had already been done by the Belfast side.
"We're right up for the Clermont game now," said Pienaar.
"It's always a privilege to play at the Kingspan Stadium but it adds extra spice being in Europe. They are a really good team and we know how tough it is, but these are the games you want to be involved in as a rugby player."
Sam Warburton was a late withdrawal due to illness, but the hosts looked to have found the remedy as outside-half Steven Shingler landed a penalty to send his side into a 3-0 lead.
But with Pienaar playing the role of conductor, Ulster were soon ahead. The Springbok scrum-half darted past Shingler at the side of a ruck to take his side to within 10 metres of the Cardiff line.
The pressure eventually told and Blaine Scully was sin-binned for slowing the ball at a ruck, and Les Kiss's men showed their clinical edge to utilise an overlap and send Piuatu over.
It got even better for the visitors when the ball was worked into midfield, and McCloskey hit a devastating line to breeze past Tau Filise and Alex Cuthbert to dive in at the posts.
Pienaar landed the conversion, before they crossed again to all-but seal the victory before half-time.
Lloyd Williams attempted to clear his lines with a box-kick, but Pienaar was there to smother, and loosehead McCall somehow smuggled the ball away from Scully to score.
However, Blues hooker Dacey burrowed over after Cuthbert went close to narrow the gap to 21-8 at the interval.
Ulster survived 10 minutes without Iain Henderson, who was sin-binned for a high tackle on Cuthbert, before Luke Marshall earned himself a spell in the bin after he went offside at a ruck.
Instead of a Cardiff comeback, Ulster lock Pete Browne charged downfield, before the ball was sent wide to Henry, who barged over to score.
The returning Nicky Robinson set up late scores for Willis Halaholo and Alex Cuthbert.
But replacement Ludik struck late to seal a 35-22 victory.
Cardiff Blues - B Scully; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, T James (M Morgan 55); S Shingler (N Robinson 62), L Williams (T Williams 69); G Jenkins (capt) (R Gill 57), K Dacey, T Filise (S Andrews 57), G Earle, J Down (Cook 60), J Turnbull, E Jenkins, J Navidi.
Ulster - C Piutau, T Bowe, L Marshall (D Cave 73), S McCloskey (L Ludik 72), C Gilroyn (C Ross 74); B Herron (C Marshall 62), R Pienaar (P Marshall 61); K McCall, R Herring (capt) (J Andrew 63), W Herbst (Ah You 55), P Browne, F van der Merwe (Treadwell 48), I Henderson, C Henry, S Reidy.
REF: Andy Brace.