Scarlets were hit with a late injury, to add to the thirteen players already absent, as centre Jonathan Davies pulled up in the warm-up thrusting Steff Hughes straight in to the starting line-up.
Ulster kick us off, kicking left to right form the main stand, and with it kick off our2018-19 Guinness PRO14 season.
Scarlets get the first points on the board through outside half Rhys Patchell. He gets his side down in to the right area of the field, a neat kick to the corner hands captain Ken Owens a five metre line out. The throw is caught beautifully by Balde Thomson and from there the Scarlets build the pressure on the homeside. The ball is thrown back in field before working its way back to the wide channel with Patchell spotting a gap in Ulster’s defence. He’s determined and over! He converts.
Ulster hit back winning possession and heading deep in to Scarlets territory. They play the ball through the hands. Scarlets give away a penalty under the posts and it’s an opportunity for scrum half John Cooney to get points on the board for the homeside. It’s a relatively easy kick and he puts it clear.
Referee playing Ulster advantage in Scarlets' 22 after some quick fast footwork into visitors territory. They opt for a second penalty. Cooney is safe with the boot adding the three points after 16 minutes.
The second quarter was a rather more sloppy affair with Scarlets struggling to keep hold of possession. Scarlets are penalised once again in our own 22 and Cooney adds a third penalty putting Ulster ahead for the first time this afternoon.
Ulster have a fourth penalty kick with just minutes of the first half remaining. Cooney’s long range kick has the aim but not the distance. Score at the half remains 9-7.
Half time: Ulster 9 Scarlets 7
The Scarlets get the second half underway in dramatic fashion pushing deep into Ulster territory from the word get go.
Patchell makes a great break in midfield and hits a great line. Ken Owens is in support and he crosses the whitewash right under the posts. The try isn’t awarded, deemed not grounded, but what a start!
A much better start to the second half than ending to the first. Scarlets look to have a little more fire in the belly and are making the territorial gains, keeping ball in hand and building through the phases.
With 48 minutes played Dan Jones comes on for Patchell who heads for a HIA. Within minutes of coming on to the field of play Jones has an opportunity to put Scarlets back in front. Ulster are penalised for not rolling away at the breakdown and he steps up for a kick from the ten metre line. Jones makes it look easy as he puts Scarlets back in the lead.
Ulster get back in the lead just four minutes later with another penalty from scrum half Cooney. We’re straight back down in to Ulster territory.
A corner kick by Jones gives us an opportunity for the five metre line out with replacement Ryan Elias throwing to his men. Ulster are penalised in the shadows of their own sticks and Jones steps up for a second penalty.
Things have heated up here at the Kingpsan Stadium with just over ten minutes remaining. Tensions have flared with both sides looking to get a foothold on the closing stages to secure a victory in the opening round of the Guinness PRO14 season.
Just as quickly as he is on Ed Kennedy is off the field again after being shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Speight. Scarlets will have to play ten of the final twelve minutes with just fourteen men.
The final moments are tense to say the least. Scarlets build twenty phases of decent rugby before kicking the ball away and back to Ulster hands.
The home side are not going to let this one go! Cooney misses a relatively straight forward kick with only three minutes left on the clock giving the Scarlets a reprieve. Ulster come back at us however and a second yellow card is shown, this time to David Bulbring, after holding on to an Ulster support runners coat tails without the ball.
Kennedy returns as Bulbring leaves for the sin bin. The Ulstermen on the field and in the crowd feel that they have this one in the bag. Cooney steps up for a final penalty off the afternoon. He makes no mistakes this time. It’s a clear shot at the posts and Ulster steal the victory.
Final score: Ulster 15 Scarlets 13