The good news for Ulster before kick-off was that two key players, Pedrie Wannenburg and former Leicester man Ian Humphreys, were passed fit to line up at Number 8 and fly-half respectively. Elsewhere, Paddy Wallace made his first start in several months at centre after a lengthy lay-off with a hand injury, relegating Ian Whitten to the bench.
Ulster made a confident start, with notably quick feet from Darren Cave and Stefan Terblanche in the opening moments gaining some good territory. When the try came, though, from Trimble on five minutes, it was more the product of hard graft close to the posts from the forwards, and a rather fortunate looped pass which found the Ballymena man as close to the right touchline as he could legally go. Trimble did excellently to evade several tackles and stretch over the line, and his feat was matched by a sublime Pienaar conversion from the acutest of angles, setting the score at Ulster 7 Leicester 0.
Pienaar shone again five minutes later, slotting home a penalty from mere metres inside the Leicester half. However the high rate of scoring continued, with Tigers captain Geordan Murphy sneaking over the Ulster whitewash on 15 minutes, and Billy Twelvetrees adding the extras. Refusing to let themselves be phased by the setback, Ulster simply came again, and perhaps should have done better with a quickly-taken penalty tapped on by Pienaar five metres from the visitors' line, but on this occasion the chain of crossfield passes broke down, and the chance went begging.
As the game wore on into the second quarter and Leicester began to show more of their unquestionable class, Ulster intelligently altered their approach, slowing play down when they could, rather than sticking with the hell-for-leather strategy employed hitherto. Their patience paid off with the award of a 31st-minute penalty - this time from even closer to the half-way line - which Pienaar hit with just enough venom to drop it over the bar, stretching the lead to six points at Ulster 13 Leicester 7.
A botched line-out on 35 minutes looked to have prevented the hosts from gaining any further advantage before half-time, but they redeemed themselves in the very next move, the backs closing down the Leicester recipient of a smart Humphreys punt forward and forcing the 10-metre scrum. Pienaar got the ball in and out and fed Humphreys, whose quicksilver pass supplied Trimble in roughly the same position from where he had scored the first try. Here the outcome was the same, blighted only by Pienaar's narrow miss with the conversion attempt before the sides ran off for the break.
Half-Time Score Ulster 18 Leicester 7
Twelvetrees should have opened the half with three points for Leicester with a 42nd-minute penalty, but despite the kicker's central position, the ball smacked off the left-hand upright and back into play, for Ulster to clear gratefully. With the onus on the Tigers to chase the game, Ulster were happy to bide their time and wait for a mistake or an infringement from the visitors. The latter came on 52 minutes and Pienaar, this time from the 10-metre line, kept up his remarkable kicking form with penalty number three.
His fourth came barely three minutes later, the ball once again dipping just over the crossbar, and elevating the score to Ulster 24 Leicester 7. With a legitimate-looking Ulster try then disallowed on the hour mark for apparent crossing, and tempers starting to fray with two post-ruck punch-ups in quick succession, Ulster regained their composure the quicker and a 22-metre Pienaar penalty - his closest of the evening - put the victory beyond reasonable doubt at Ulster 27 Leicester 7 on 63 minutes.
With Leicester reduced to 14 men on 63 minutes after Dan Cole saw yellow for dissent, Ulster turned on the style and the evening continued to prove prolific for the Ulster wingers, Gilroy touching down on his flank after speedy work from Terblanche and an impressively agile sidestep and pass from Wannenburg. Pienaar converted once again to make it Ulster 34 Leicester 7.
The bonus-point try was a real blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but most of Ravenhill at least had caught up with the action in time to see the recently-entered Marshall latch onto a quickly-taken penalty and dart over the whitewash for try the fourth. Again, Pienaar converted effortlessly to cap the visitors' misery at Ulster 41 Leicester 7.
The bonus-point win now sees Ulster a full five points clear at the top of Pool Four before the other Round Five match to be contested tomorrow by Aironi and Clermont Auvergne.
Full-Time Score Ulster 41 Leicester 7
(15 - 9) S Terblanche; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; I Humpreys, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) T Court, R Best, J Afoa; J Muller (c), D Tuohy; S Ferris, C Henry, P Wannenburg
Replacements (16 - 23) N Brady, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, W Faloon, P Marshall, I Whitten, A D'Arcy
(15 - 9) G Murphy (c); H Agulla, M Smith, A Allen, A Tuilagi; B Twelvetrees, B Youngs
(1 - 8) M Ayerza, R Hawkins, M Castrogiovianni; S Mafi, G Parling; T Croft, J Salvi, T Waldrom
Replacements (16 - 23) G Chuter, B Stankovich, D Cole, E Slater, B Woods, S Harrison, J Staunton, S Hamilton
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|
|Leicester Tigers Score Card|