This afternoon's starting line-up welcomed back the rehabilitated duo of skipper Johann Muller and centre Darren Cave after lengthy lay-offs through injury, while Ian Humphreys was recalled at out-half, and Tom Court returned from Six Nations duty at loosehead. The Ireland trio of Rory Best, Stephen Ferris and Andrew Trimble were all rested in accordance with the regulations of the IRFU Player Management Scheme.
Despite the reinforced strength of the Ulster team thanks to its illustrious returners, Treviso competed for the entirety of the 80 minutes, and indeed took an early lead courtesy of a third-minute try from hooker Enrico Ceccato, converted by first-choice Italian out-half Kris Burton.
Ulster responded well, however, Ruan Pienaar kicking over three valuable points in the 17th minute. A Chris Henry try followed soon after, with Pienaar adding the extras, before Burton contributed a drop goal and a penalty, either side of a second Pienaar penalty for Ulster.
The South African scrum-half then spurned the opportunity to put his side ahead at the break, missing with a 39th-minute penalty.
Half Time Score Treviso 13 Ulster 13
A second drop-goal from the opportunistic Burton moments into the second period put the Italians back into the driving seat, and, as the second half wore on towards its conclusion, the lead was cemented by replacement Alberto Di Bernardo's try on 69 minutes. But Ulster's spirit shone through and Paddy Wallace struck directly back two minutes later, with Pienaar once more on hand to convert.
And, in a real grandstand finish, Ian Whitten stood up for the Ulstermen mere seconds before the final whistle, landing the try which sealed the victory and kept Brian McLaughlin's men in genuine top four contention.
Pienaar added his final conversion of the tie, and Ulster must now look to next Friday's crunch match at Ravenhill, where Treviso's compatriots Aironi will be the visitors.
Full-Time Score Treviso 23 Ulster 27
(15 - 9) B Williams; T Iannone, A Sgarbi, G Garcia, L Nitoglia; K Burton, E Gori
(1 - 8) R Barbieri, A Zanni, M Vosawai; C Van Zyl, A Pavanello (c); L Cittadini, E Ceccato, M Rizzo
Replacements (16 - 23) F Sbaraglini, M Muccignat, I Fernandez Rouyet, V Bernabo, F Minto, G Padro, F Semenzato, A Di Bernardo
(15 - 9) A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, P Wallace, S Terblanche; I Humphreys, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) T Court, A Kyriacou, J Afoa; J Muller (c), D Tuohy; C Henry, W Faloon, R Diack
Replacements (16 - 23) N Brady, P McAllister, A Macklin, L Stevenson, N McComb, P Marshall, I Whitten, N Spence
BRIAN MCLAUGHLIN POST-MATCH REACTION
"Treviso put us under a lot of pressure this afternoon, it was a far from perfect performance but I thought that we showed tremendous character to pull back and get the away win against a side that was full of Italian internationals.
We put them under a fair bit of pressure in the first five minutes but then we turned the ball over the ball which they hacked down the pitch to score a fairly soft try and put us 7-0 down at the start.
Treviso threw everything at us today and in the first half our scrum was under a little bit of pressure but we sorted that in the second half and we scrummed well.
Paddy Wallace scored a magnificent try around the 70 minute mark to put us right back into the mix and bring us from 23-13 down right up to 23-20 once Ruan added the conversion and thankfully there was enough time on the clock for Ian Whitten's score in the 82nd minute which Ruan converted from the touchline.
It was by no means a top class performance but we showed a lot of self belief to get the win and one we so badly needed to keep us in contention for a play-off spot in the PRO12. This win keeps our destiny, as far as a play-off spot is concerned, in our own hands. The competition is so tight. The Ospreys result at the RDS against Leinster last night really keeps them in contention and there's just a few points, if even separating us from Glasgow, Cardiff, and Scarlets. We all have everything still to play for so its going to be a very exciting run-in."
Both Darren Cave and Johann Muller who were making their first appearances following injury were substituted in the second half due to injury but McLaughlin does not seem overly concerned at this stage;
"Darren took a knock on the nose and Johann got a bang to his throat and a bit of a dead leg. Both will be assessed tonight and tomorrow."
|Benetton Treviso Score Card|
|Alberto di Bernardo||1||5|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|