Dan McFarland’s side were efficient throughout, with their superior pack strangling a lacklustre Scarlets side while their backs were clinical.
The Irish province will now fancy their chances of progressing to the knockout stages while the Scarlets are staring into the abyss having been eliminated after a mere three games. Tries from Jacob Stockdale, Henry Speight, Will Addison and Marcel Coetzee plus five points from the boot of John Cooney was enough to secure a notable victory.
The Scarlets scored three tries of their own courtesy of a brace from Steff Evans and a touchdown from Dan Davis while Rhys Patchell and Dan Jones kicked seven points between them.
Patchell opened the scoring for the hosts with a straightforward penalty after Ulster had infringed at the breakdown.
Speight sparked Ulster into life with a terrific break before being brought down in the Scarlets 22. Addison attempted to find McCloskey on the outside but a McNicholl’s stray hand prevented a try. Referee Alexandre Ruiz went back to the original penalty, allowing Cooney to level the scores.
The visitors crossed the whitewash for the first time thanks to an incisive break by Addison, who did Wales centre Jonathan Davies for gas on the outside before releasing Stuart McCloskey.
The big centre charged forward before offloading to Stockdale, who ran through Gareth Davies like he wasn’t there on his way to the try line.
A high hit from Sean Reidy on Lewis Rawlins angered the home side, who unsurprisingly thought the big blindside should have, at the very least, spent 10 minutes on the sidelines.
Nevertheless, Ulster were made to pay for Reidy’s transgression as the Scarlets shunted the Ulster pack backwards from the proceeding lineout. Scrum-half Davies very nearly crossed the try-line after sniping from the base of the ruck but Wales wing Evans eventually crossed, with Patchell’s conversion putting the Scarlets back into the lead.
But Ulster hit back, with Speight grabbing their second try at the far right-hand corner. Scarlets huffed and puffed as the clock ticked towards half-time but their endeavours came to nothing, with the visitors holding a slender 13-10 lead at the interval.
Wales centre Davies tried his best to spark his side into life with a powerful 40-metre break into Ulster’s half. But with men outside him centre Kieron Fonotia lost the ball in contact, meaning a promising Scarlets attack broke down.
Addison put daylight between the two sides when he hit the perfect angle to slice open the Scarlets defence for Ulster’s third try.
Despite being 10 points behind, the hosts refused to throw in the towel, with Davies causing mayhem whenever he touched the ball. The Lions star made another break before offloading to Evans, who chipped the ball forward.
The ball was deflected by an Ulster player but it refused to fall favourably for Davies, meaning Ulster got out of jail. Ulster’s scrum had been a huge strength in the first forty but the Scarlets turned the tables, destroying the visiting side to earn a penalty.
Captain Ken Owens made a big call in turning down a straight-forward three points in favour of another scrum. The Scarlets went through the phases before Rory Best saved Ulster with a terrific turnover at the breakdown.
But Wayne Pivac’s side finally broke Ulster’s resistance when former Super Rugby star McNicholl picked up from the base off the ruck before perfectly executing a Sonny Bill Williams-style offload to put Evans over for his second.
The Scarlets’ comeback was shortlived as former Springboks star Coetzee sneaked in at the corner after an initial charge up the middle by Iain Henderson.
Davis ensured a grandstand finish with his try from short range and a touchline conversion from Dan Jones putting the hosts back to within a point of Ulster. The Scarlets pushed hard for an unlikely comeback, with Jonathan Davies making some hard yards as his carrying game put the hosts on the front foot.
Jones pushed the Scarlets into Ulster’s half after the clock had turned red but the visiting defence remained firm as they claimed a famous victory.
Scarlets – McNicholl; Prydie, G Davies, Fonotia (Parkes 44), R Evans; Patchell, G Davies; R Evans (W Jones 62), Owens (Elias 70), Lee (Kruger 60), Rawlins (Cummins 25), Bulbring, Boyde, J Davies, Cassiem (Davis 27).
Ulster – Lowry; Speight, Hume, McCloskey, Stockdale; Burns, Cooney; O’Sullivan, Best (Herring 70), Moore, Henderson, Treadwell, Reidy (Timoney 25), Murphy, Coetzee.
Referee – Alexandre Ruiz (FFR).
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