Treviso 11 Ulster 22
Not for the first time, Ulster found themselves having to roll up their sleeves to come away with a victory from Italy in what was a misfiring performance pock-marked with worrying inaccuracy for Less Kiss’s side.
On the flip side, they have at least open their Pro 12 account with two wins from two in what was a sweltering evening at the Stadio Monigo but, overall, that will hardly cut much ice with Kiss when he comes to assess the game.
Ulster scored three tries – the failure to take a bonus point will hurt them – with Luke Marshall's opener after four minutes not being added to until the 53rd and 57th minutes when skipper Rob Herring and Ruan Pienaar crossed the line after former Ulster player Filo Paulo had been sin-binned.
The 12 points Kiss’s squad scored during this period were crucial to steadying their wobbling ship and took them from a mere 10-6 lead – which was how it stood at half-time – to a secure-looking 22-6.
It was an evening when Ulster only played in fits and starts, with Herring yellow-carded in the 66th minute which stalled their momentum and then, on his return, Stuart Olding was also binned for killing the ball in the lead up to the game's endgame which saw Tommaso Benvenuti touch down.
Ulster set out their stall early and scored after Sean Reidy had impressively claimed the ball after the visitors kicked-off with Luke Marshall touching down four minutes later after the province had kept possession throughout.
Pienaar converted and Ulster looked set fair to dominate the game. However, it didn’t really work out that way as Treviso began to exert pressure on Ulster, particularly at the scrum.
The rest of the half was pretty much about Ulster just staying ahead in the face of poor play from themselves and more possession and territory falling the way of the home side.
Tommaso Allan badly missed a 15th minute penalty but made no mistake just before the half hour with his second shot at goal following a turnover from an Ulster lineout.
Pienaar landed a long-range penalty, on the half hour, to steady Ulster’s nerves but they continued to play the game on the back foot.
Andrea Buodonno was wide with a long-range penalty shot on 32 minutes and then Allan slotted his second three minutes later.
Again, though, Ulster had an opportunity to slot another three points with the final play of the half, but Pienaar’s penalty strike from just inside Treviso’s half struck an upright and the rather beleaguered-looking visitors led by just 10-6 at the break.
Treviso secondrow Paulo’s yellow card, nine minutes in, proved a game-changer.
Ulster finally took control with scores coming from skipper Herring – from a lineout maul – and Pienaar who helped kick-start a move which he finished off courtesy of Jacob Stockdale’s assist.
The South African only managed to convert his own effort but, with Ulster leading 22-6 with just over 20 minutes remaining, they had not only secured the result but now looked odds-on to push on for a bonus-point try.
That it didn’t arrive was largely down to Herring’s 66th minute sin-binning after he had apparently illegally cleared out at a ruck, with Ulster then struggling to effectively use their possession.
Though they came close to a fourth try through Stuart McCloskey just before Herring’s return, the game ended with Treviso hacking downfield and Olding being binned for killing the ball.
Ian McKinley then picked out Benvenuti with a cross-kick with full time being blown after David Odiete’s missed conversion.
TREVISO: J Hayward; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, L McLean (capt), A Buondonno; T Allan, G Bronzini; N Quaglio, O Gega, S Ferrari; M Fuser, F Paulo; F Minto, M Lazzaroni, M Barbini.
Replacements: R Santamaria for Gega (48 mins), F Gerosa for Fuser (52 mins), A De Marchi For Quaglio, T Pasquali for Ferrari, D Odiete for A Esposito (all 56 mins), D Budd for Paulo, E Gori for Bronzini (both 66 mins), I McKinley for T Allan (71 mins).
ULSTER: L Ludik; R Lyttle, L Marshall, S Olding, J Stockdale; B Herron, R Pienaar; K McCall, R Herring (capt), R Ah You; K Treadwell, F van der Merwe; C Ross, S Reidy, R Wilson.
Replacements: P Browne for Treadwell (43 mins), R Kane for Ah You (48 mins), D Cave for Marshall (56 mins), R Diack for Wilson, A Warwick for McCall (both 61 mins), J Andrew for Van der Merwe (68-78 mins), S McCloskey for Herring (73 mins), R Ah You for Kane (76 mins).
Referee: D Phillips (Ireland).