Ulster picked up their first win of the new RaboDirect PRO12 season by seeing off fellow Irish province Connacht 18-7 in Galway.
Last year’s runners-up overcame a strong Connacht start to triumph, in large part thanks to the work of young fly-half Paddy Jackson.
In front of watching new Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, Ulster’s Irish international scored a try and kicked a further eight points to help his side to victory at the Sportsground.
Schmidt would also have been pleased to see the return to action of winger Craig Gilroy who appeared for the first time since last April following a lengthy layoff due to a groin injury.
The game also saw Dan Parks become the first man to pass 1,500 points in the league’s history following a tenth-minute try, but the Scotsman was eventually overshadowed by opposite number Jackson.
In the sixth minute, Connacht were the first to threaten but Eoin Griffin and Gavin Duffy were unable to combine at the last moment, a knock-on denying a try-scoring chance.
Parks passed the landmark points tally in the tenth minute when a spell of sustained pressure finally told.
Connacht were proving patient in their build-up and when Parks spotted a gap he easily brushed off a number of Ulster challenges to stretch over to the right of the posts, the Scot adding the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to respond, however, as within five minutes they grabbed a try of their own sparked by an intelligent break from Jackson as winger Michael Allen touched down in the corner, though Jackson failed to add the extras.
Ulster continued to press but found stubborn resistance from the home side’s defence.
Parks had the chance to relieve some pressure in the 28th minute but he pushed a penalty wide of the posts.
And opposite number Jackson was at this point failing to find his range with a penalty miss of his own.
With the last action of the half Ulster pushed for a try but Connacht held firm once more to force an error close to the try-line and take a 7-5 lead into the break.
Gilroy was introduced from the bench at half-time and would have enjoyed a second half during which the visitors were largely on the front foot.
Jared Payne thought he had given the Ulstermen the lead for the first time in the game shortly after the break as they continued in the ascendancy, but he was ruled to have been held up.
In the 55th minute Jackson, who had impressed with the ball in hand throughout, finally kicked successfully for the first time of the night after Connacht were penalised for collapsing the scrum, gifting Ulster the lead for the first time at 7-8.
And they extended the lead soon after with a fine Jackson try. A breakaway almost put Darren Cave through but the centre was tackled just before the try-line. Play was recycled well by Luke Marshall – who had made the original break – and he found Payne who cleverly put Jackson through for Ulster’s second try of the game which he duly converted himself.
Shortly after the hour Jackson’s penalty enhanced Ulster’s continued dominance as they went 7-18 ahead.
And the deficit proved too much for Connacht to claw back as their losing run against their fellow Irish provinces that goes back to April 2012 continued.