Wallace partnered Nevin Spence in the centre at the expense of Ian Whitten, while young Paddy Jackson stepped up to make his first team debut at out-half after Ian Humphreys' late withdrawal due to the recurrence of the shoulder injury he sustained last Sunday. Bryan Young and Nigel Brady started on the bench to accommodate Court at prop and Andi Kyriacou at hooker, while TJ Anderson was preferred to Willie Faloon in the back row.
The Scarlets started the game in a lively manner, but quickly surrendered possession with a misplaced pass which veered into touch well within their own half. Ulster claimed the line-out well, and soon earned a penalty in front of the posts with the Scarlets pulled up for not releasing in the tackle. Ruan Pienaar, taking over kicking duties in the absence of Humphreys, split the posts to open the account at Scarlets 0 Ulster 3.
Pienaar came close to increasing his tally on six minutes with a burst from his own half after Chris Henry had stolen a Scarlets line-out ball, but was dragged down metres from the try-line and his subsequent hurried pass was knocked on. The scrum-half was on hand, however, two minutes later to kick over a second three points with the Welshmen penalised for not binding in the scrum.
Newly-capped Welsh out-half Rhys Priestland needed only six minutes to restore parity thanks to two well-taken penalties of his own, and Ulster indiscipline in the scrum at the beginning of the second quarter - with three penalties conceded in as many minutes - let to the award of a penalty try, converted by Priestland again to enhance the lead to Scarlets 13 Ulster 6.
A sublime show-and-go from Jackson - evidently having no trouble settling in on his debut - opened up a gap in the Scarlets' defence and led to the concession of a third penalty, converted by Pienaar to leave Ulster only four points adrift. As half-time approached the Scarlets enjoyed a period of sustained pressure, but were frustrated by some savvy defending by Ulster, who slowed down play as much as possible, and finally forced the Welshmen to settle for only three additional points thanks to a Priestland drop-goal.
Half-Time Score Scarlets 16 Ulster 9
Starting the second half on the wrong end of a seven-point margin, Ulster needed to get points on the scoreboard first, and showed good composure and discipline in the opening exchanges to force a penalty in front of the posts on 46 minutes after the Scarlets had strayed offside. Pienaar maintained his 100% record for the night, reducing the gap to four points at Scarlets 16 Ulster 12.
Brian McLaughlin reshuffled Ulster's lines on the 50-minute mark, with Danielli replacing Adam D'Arcy at full-back, Paul Marshall running on at scrum-half with Pienaar shifting to out-half after the withdrawal of the impressive Jackson, and Robbie Diack entering the fray in place of Thomas Anderson. Then, a further penalty conceded on the hour by the Scarlets allowed Pienaar to bring his team within a solitary point at Scarlets 16 Ulster 15.
On 65 minutes Gilroy made some excellent ground after a Scarlets handling error on their 10-metre line, but the prolific wing was eventually stopped in his tracks by some desperate tackling, and the threat broke down. With the game teetering on a knife-edge as it entered its final 10 minutes, the Scarlets got the first opportunity to mark the decisive score with a penalty on the right wing, but Priestland pulled his kick wide of the left-hand upright and the scores remained static.
An Ulster charge-down on 76 minutes won possession back for the visitors and, as they pushed forward up to the Welsh '22', Pienaar's team-mates tried to set the Springbok up for a match-winning drop-goal, but the ever-assiduous Scarlets quickly closed him down to smother any chance.
Then, in the dying seconds, with the Scarlets caught offside two metres inside the Ulster half, Pienaar - advised by the official that there would be no time for a kick into touch and line-out - had the responsibility for victory or defeat resting on his shoulders. The Springbok showed his international class by slotting over a 55-metre kick in terrible conditions to seal the narrowest of victories - and propel his team that little closer to the coveted Magners League top-four spot.
Full-Time Score Scarlets 16 Ulster 18
(15 - 9) D Evans; G Maule, R King, S Williams, S Lamont; R Priestland, M Roberts
(1 - 8) I Thomas (c), E Phillips, R Thomas, V Cooper, L Reed, R McCusker, J Turnbul, B Morgan
Replacements (16 - 23) R Lawrence, R Jones, S Gardner, J Fa'amatuainu, J Edwards, T Knoyle, D Newton, J Ajuwa
(15 - 9) A D'Arcy; A Trimble, N Spence, P Wallace, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) T Court, A Kyriacou, D Fitzpatrick, J Muller (c), T Barker, TJ Anderson, C Henry, P Wannenburg
Replacements (16 - 23) N Brady, J Cronin, B Young, R Caldwell, R Diack, P Marshall, L Marshall, S Danielli
|Scarlets Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|