Ruan Pienaar pulls the strings as Ulster have too much for Cardiff
First-half show sets Ulster on their way, they now move into fifth place in the Pro12 table
Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar in action during the win over Cardiff. Photograph: Inpho
But Ulster soon got up and running, as Ruan Pienaar resumed his normal conductor role.
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.
Pressure eventually told and Blaine Scully was sin-binned for slowing the ball at a ruck, and Les Kiss’ men showed their clinical edge to score.
They took a quick tap penalty and went close through Luke Marshall, before the ball was sent to the blind-side where Brett Heron found Piutau in space, and the All Black shrugged off a tackle to score.
Pienaar added the extras, before it got even better for the visitors. This time the ball was worked into midfield, and McCloskey hit a devastating angle to sear past Tau Filise and Alex Cuthbert to dive in at the posts.
Pienaar landed the conversion for an 11 point advantage, before crossing 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.
Blaine Scully looked to have cleaned up the mess, but somehow loosehead McCall smuggled the ball away to score.
However, Blues hooker Dacey burrowed over to score after Cuthbert went close to narrow the gap to 21-8 at the interval.
Iain Henderson was sin-binned moments after the restart for tackling Cuthbert round the neck, but the visitors survived.
However they soon had to steel themselves for another period with 14 men, after Luke Marshall went blatantly offside at a ruck.
Instead of a Cardiff comeback, Ulster sealed the bonus-point to leapfrog Glasgow Warriors into fifth place.
Pete Browne charged 20 metres downfield before handing the ball off to Tommy Bowe.
The ball was then worked wide to flanker Henry, who crashed over for Ulster’s fourth score.
Matthew Morgan made an impact from full-back with a searing break. The hosts then spread the ball to the returning Nicky Robinson, who looped a pass to Halaholo, and the Kiwi import used some neat footwork to beat his man and score.
Cuthbert looked to have sealed a losing bonus-point, 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.
Reps not used: M Rees, S Lewis-Hughes.
Tries - Dacey, Halaholo, Cuthbert. Cons - Robinson (2) Pens - Shingler.
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 , W Herbst (Ah You 55), P Browne, F van der Merwe (Treadwell 48), I Henderson, C Henry, S Reidy.
Tries - Piutau, Olding, McCall, Henry, Ludik. Cons - Pienaar (5).
Yellow cards - Henderson, Marshall.
Referee: Andrew Brace (WRU)