|Ulster (21) 28|
|Tries: Gilroy, Doak 2, Herring Cons: Doak 4|
|Benetton (3) 8|
|Try: Tavuyara Pen: Marin|
Ulster inflicted Benetton’s first league defeat of the season and maintained their perfect start with a third straight bonus-point win.
Nathan Doak continued his eye-catching start to the season, scoring two tries, including the all-important fourth.
Rob Herring celebrated his 200th appearance for Ulster with a first-half try after Craig Gilroy grabbed the hosts’ first.
Ratuva Tayuvara crossed for Benetton’s only try after the break.
The Italian side, entering the season with renewed vigour following their Rainbow Cup triumph last spring, had won their opening two matches but offered little by way of sustained attacking pressure in Belfast.
Their best spell came in the opening 20 minutes of the second period, but by that stage they had let Ulster open up an 18-point lead that had put the hosts out of sight.
Herring marks double century as Doak continues to shine
In his ninth season with Ulster, Herring took the field before his team-mates to mark a double century of appearances.
The South Africa-born Ireland international has built his reputation on reliability, a strong set-piece and game awareness that has seen him flourish for both club and country.
He nearly scored the game’s first try, peeling off the back of a stagnant maul to dive over the line only for the score to be disallowed with David McCann ruled offside as Herring broke free.
Ulster did not have to wait much longer to get on the board as they found a way past an initially stubborn visiting defence. Billy Burns’ low kick bounced kindly for Gilroy, who steamed in to gather ahead of Rhyno Smith.
Benetton, victorious in their opening two games, showed little in attack and struggled to contain the hosts while down to 14 men following prop Ivan Nemer’s sin-binning for deliberate obstruction.
Academy graduates Doak and McCann combined beautifully allowing the scrum-half away for his second try of the season and further enamour himself to the home crowd.
As Benetton struggled to find a foothold in the contest, Ulster pulled away, with Herring crossing again from the back of a maul, this time with no infringement, to claim an individual moment to remember in marking his milestone.
In front of watching Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, Ulster’s young guns had largely impressed in a controlled opening half, but the home side eased up in the second.
Benetton never looked capable of overturning the deficit but were invited to advance – creeping towards the line before forcing James Hume to play the ball on the ground, with the centre seeing the sin-bin for the second time this season.
From the next phase, they sent it left for Tavuyara to step inside Gilroy and reduce the arrears but there was to be no comeback, despite the man advantage.
With 10 minutes remaining, a renewed urgency entered Ulster’s play as time to secure a bonus-point began to run out.
Doak found a pocket to snipe over in the 78th minute to ensure the province moved to 15 points after three games.
Ulster: Addison, Gilroy, Hume; Moore, McIlroy; Burns, Doak; Warwick, Herring, O’Toole; O’Connor, Carter (captain) Rea, Timoney, McCann.
Replacements: Roberts, Reid, Kane, Kearney, Reidy, Shanahan, Lowry, Moxham.
Benetton: Smith; Tavuyara, Zanon, Benvenuti, Sperandio; Marin, Braley; Zani, Els, Nemer; Irné Herbst, Ruzza; Pettinelli, Lamaro (capt), Steyn.
Replacements: Baravalle, Traoré, Pasquali, Lazzaroni, Negri, Cannone, Petrozzi, Morisi.