A strong start from Ulster saw the visitors going off their feet at the ruck on two minutes, allowing Humphreys to open the scoring with a penalty from the right wing. Connacht were penalised again moments later for collapsing a scrum on half-way, and with Humphreys electing to kick for touch, Ulster built constructively from the line-out until their advances were blighted by an unfortunate knock-on.
The game took a fractious turn on the 10-minute mark, with a bout of fisticuffs between the forwards earning a reprimand for the captains from referee John Lacey. Connacht seemed to settle down more quickly from the restart, and fly-half Miah Nikora levelled the scores on 16 minutes with a penalty of his own. Ulster's response was spirited, an opportunistic dash from Marshall creating space in the middle of the park and fashioning a try-scoring chance which eventually evaporated with a knock-on from Ferris close to the line.
Ulster continued to apply good pressure, but a further Connacht indiscretion on the half-hour mark went unpunished as Humphreys' kick spiralled wide of the posts. The out-half did exceedingly well moments later to collect a poorly-cast low pass, but yet another fumble within the Ulster ranks cut short the offensive move. Three minutes, and one further handling error in a promising position later, Ulster finally broke the deadlock thanks to prolific winger Gilroy, who touched down on the left flank after a patient build-up. Humphreys failed to convert from an acute angle, but at Ulster 8 Connacht 3 his team had the lead their superior possession and territorial advantage deserved.
Half-Time Score Ulster 8 Connacht 3
An alert steal from Best as the Connacht forwards hesitated with Humphreys' restart put the men in green straight back under the cosh, and with Ulster camping metres from the try line and recycling well, it was only a matter of time before the try was registered. Tom Court was the man to apply the finishing touch, and this time Humphreys converted to raise the score to Ulster 15 Connacht 3.
With Ulster now firmly in the ascendancy, a third try was only prevented by a dropped ball on 52 minutes, and the hosts came close again on the hour mark with strong offensive running from Danielli and Wallace in particular. A brief Connacht rebellion followed, which Ulster contained well, before launching a final onslaught with five minutes remaining.
This failed, however, to add any further points to the scoreboard until the very last play of the match when Humphreys forced his way through a gap in the fatigued Connacht rearguard to touch down behind the posts. The out-half converted his own score with the final kick of the encounter.
While far from being a vintage performance, the victory will give Ulster timely confidence for next Saturday's Heineken Cup opener against French outfit Clermont Auvergne.
Full-Time Score Ulster 22 Connacht 3
(15 - 9) S Danielli; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, P Marshall
(1 - 8) T Court, R Best, J Afoa; J Muller (c), D Tuohy; S Ferris, C Henry, P Wannenburg
Replacements (16 -23) A Kyriacou, P McAllister, A Macklin, L Stevenson, R Diack, I Porter, N Spence, A D'Arcy
(15 - 9) T O'Halloran; F Vainikolo, G Duffy (c), D McSharry, B Tuohy; M Nikora, P O'Donohoe
(1 - 8) B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Ah You; M Swift, M McCarthy; TJ Anderson, E Grace, G Naoupu
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|
|Connacht Rugby Score Card|