Pro 12: Ulster 20-3 Cardiff Blues
Ulster (17) 20
- Tries: Cave (2)
- Cons: Humphreys (2)
- Pens: Humphreys, Jackson
Cardiff Blues (0) 3
- Pen: Sweeney
Ulster won their third consecutive match in the Pro12 with a comfortable success over early-season pacesetters Cardiff Blues at a rainy Ravenhill.
Centre Darren Cave scored both Ulster tries in the first half with Ian Humphreys converting both and adding one penalty from four attempts.
Replacement fly-half Paddy Jackson added a late penalty for the home side.
The outplayed Blues had only Ceri Sweeney's 66th-minute penalty to show for their evening's efforts.
Former Auckland Blues utility player Jared Payne impressed on his Ulster debut at full-back while Cave had to go off injured at half-time.
Ulster move to the top of the Pro12 table on 12 points with the Blues second on 10.
It was a disappointing night for the visitors who rarely threatened the Ulster line.
The conditions were far from ideal but Humphreys, who also ended up leaving the field injured, will have been disappointed at missing three out of four shots at goal in the opening 20
Still, he did go on to nail his next two efforts, which were conversions after the hosts suddenly sprung into life with two sublime back moves.
The first came in the 29th minute when Craig Gilroy burst through a space created by Nevin Spence's pass and, as he was felled near the line he popped a scoring pass to the supporting Cave.
Three minutes later Humphreys kicked a superb touchline conversion after Cave had scored again.
This time it was left winger Ian Whitten who burst through the middle from another Spence feed and Cave slid over in the right corner.
The Blues had more of the ball after the break but some poor handling saw them throw up a couple of promising attacking opportunities.
With frustration growing among their ranks, it was little surprise when Xavier Rush was binned in the 54th minute for a high tackle on Pedrie Wannenburg.
Despite this, Cardiff produced their most effective period of the game, though all they had to show for it was a Sweeney penalty three minutes after Rush's return.
Seven minutes from time, Humphreys had to be taken off following what looked like a late and high hit by Casey Laulala.
There were fears that Humphreys had suffered a collarbone injury but medical examinations revealed that the injury isn't serious and he could still be available for next weekend's game against the Ospreys.
Humphreys' replacement Paddy Jackson kicked an injury-time penalty to stretch the home team's lead to 20-3.
Debutant Payne was just held up short of scoring right at the end, but Ulster had already done enough.
Ulster: Payne, Gilroy, Cave, Spence, Whitten, Humphreys, P Marshall, Fitzpatrick, Kyriacou, Cronin, Stevenson, Tuohy, Wannenburg, Henry, Diack.
Replacements: D'Arcy for Cave (41), Jackson for Humphreys (74), Porter for P Marshall (67), McAllister for Fitzpatrick (52), Brady for Kyriacou (64), Macklin for Cronin (79), McComb for Tuohy (79), McComish for Diack (64).
Cardiff Blues: Czekaj, James, Laulala, Evans, Cuthbert, Sweeney, L Jones, Hobbs, Thomas, Andrews, Paterson, Tito, Molitika, M Williams, Rush.
Replacements: Hewitt for Evans (41), Rees for L Jones (46), Trevett for Hobbs (67), Down for Tito (67), Young for M Williams (67).
Not used: R. Williams, Monck, Patchell.
Referee: J Jones (RFU)