Pro14: Ulster ease to bonus-point 29-5 win over Scarlets
|Pro14: Ulster v Scarlets|
|Ulster (24) 29|
|Tries: Faddes 2, Cooney, Rea, Baloucoune Cons: Cooney 2|
|Scarlets (0) 5|
Ulster eased to a 29-5 bonus-point win over Scarlets in Belfast to reduce their deficit to Leinster at the top of Pro14 Conference A to four points.
Ulster had the additional point in the bag before the half-hour mark with tries from Matt Faddes, John Cooney, Matthew Rea and Robert Baloucoune.
The understrength Scarlets improved in the second half and replacement Jac Morgan scored a late consolation try.
But Faddes dived over for his second try in the closing minute of the game.
For Scarlets it was just a second defeat in seven Pro14 games this season and they drop to third place in Conference B as Edinburgh moved above them thanks to an 18-16 win over Munster at Thomond Park.
Brad Mooar's side were without nine players who are part of the Wales squad to face the Barbarians on Saturday, plus a number of others out through injury.
In addition to scoring his fifth try of the season, Cooney converted two of his side's tries as Ulster made it five wins from seven outings in the competition.
The Irish province extend their unbeaten run at Kingspan Stadium to 16 matches, a sequence stretching back 14 months.
Bonus point in the bag early
A powerful scrum laid the platform for the hosts' opening touchdown in the fifth minute, Stuart McCloskey's chip over the visiting defence setting up fellow centre Faddes to ground the ball before it went over the dead-ball line.
Three minutes later fly-half Bill Johnston's cross-field kick was collected by Baloucoune and his powerful surge set up Cooney who went over in the corner.
Rea then barged over from a rolling maul after Alan O'Connor won a line-out and another line-out set up the impressive Baloucoune to mark his first start of the season by crossing the whitewash after gathering McCloskey's long pass.
Scarlets' problems were compounded when flanker Uzair Cassiem was sin-binned for illegally pulling down a maul during the build-up to Baloucoune's try.
The visitors came into the game more after the break and when Gilroy received a yellow card for a flailing arm 10 minutes from time Morgan took advantage of his team's numerical advantage by dotting down in the corner after latching onto a long pass from Ryan Lamb.
Replacement Angus Curtis provided the pass for Faddes to breach the Scarlets' defence one final time in the closing moments and condemn them to an 11th successive loss on Irish soil.
Ulster will now aim to build on their two opening wins in the European Champions Cup when they play Harlequins home and away in Pool One over the next couple of weeks.
Scarlets face a double-header against French outfit Bayonne in the European Challenge Cup.
Ulster: Ludik; Baloucoune, Faddes, McCloskey, Gilroy; Johnston, Cooney; O'Sullivan, Herring, Moore; A O'Connor, Treadwell; Matthew Rea, Reidy, Coetzee.
Replacements: McBurney, Warwick, O'Toole, D O'Connor, Timoney, Shanahan, Curtis, Kernohan.
Scarlets: S Evans; Baldwin, S Hughes (capt), Asquith, M Williams; D Jones, Hardy; P Price, Elias, Lee, Rawlins, Lousi, Cassiem, Macleod, Thomson.
Replacements: M Jones, D Evans, Kruger, Cummins, J Morgan, J Evans, Lamb, Conbeer.