Ulster director of rugby David Humphreys believes his side are in their best form of the season after they comfortably disposed of RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Aironi to top their Heineken Cup pool.
The Irish province went into their double header knowing they realistically needed a ten-point haul from the two games in a group that includes European heavyweights Leicester and Clermont.
And tries from Andrew Trimble, a penalty try and a Tom Court effort put them well on the way before the half-time and Craig Gilroy, Robbie Diack and Adam Macklin sealed it after the break.
Leaving Humphreys purring ahead of their return to domestic competition in the RaboDirect PRO12 and their Boxing Day derby with Leinster.
“The first half was as good as we have played this season. Every aspect of our game was pleasing, our set piece functioned well and we were patient when we had the ball,” he said.
“We took our chances when they came along which was very satisfying. In the second half we got off to a bad start and Aironi got a bit of momentum, so it was a bit frustrating for us. But the substitutions came on and did well and we managed to get the important tries at the end.”
“We got five points out of the game, which is what we came here to do. Everybody was delighted to get the bonus point.
“We probably haven’t been good at that in the past as the pressure starts to build but huge credit to the players for pulling the game back together again and closing the game out.
“Aironi deserve a lot of credit too because they played some great rugby, particularly in the third quarter.
“We are delighted to be sitting at the top of a very tough pool after four games. We knew we had to take 10 points from the past two matches to give us a chance going into the final two games in the New Year.”
Ulster started the season inconsistently with three consecutive wins followed by four defeats on the bounce and Humphreys is delighted that his side appeared to have now righted those wrongs.
“For us, having suffered from a dip in form earlier in the season, it’s a huge credit to the players and management that we’ve been able to turn it around and are very competitive again,” he added.
“It is going to be a huge game at Ravenhill against Leiceter in the New Year and it will be just as difficult the following week when we travel to Clermont. It’s going to be an exciting end to the pool stages and we are looking forward to it.”