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Unbeaten Ulster put themselves firmly on course to qualify from Pool 4 in the Heineken Cup with a 25-6 victory over Northampton at Franklin's Gardens.
The RaboDirect PRO12 team made it a lucky 13 successive wins this season in the battle of the competition's last two beaten finalists, scoring two tries in each half to claim a maximum five-point haul on their travels.
Northampton's cause was not helped by Ryan Lamb enduring an off night with the boot, though in truth they were comfortably second best; the defeat leaves them in desperate need of a win in the return fixture at Ravenhill next time out if they are to remain in the qualification race.
The Saints saw nine points go begging in the opening half due to their fly-half being unable to locate the posts, Lamb twice pushing efforts to the right before another attempt from wide on the left failed to get over.
The former Gloucester player did hit the target 20 minutes in to get the hosts on the board, while a further three points with the final kick of the half cut the gap between the sides to seven.
However, the scoreline did not do justice to Ulster's dominance. Rock solid in defence, they twice launched attacking raids that yielded tries and had Paddy Jackson's radar been working, they would have been out of sight by the break.
The number 10, who missed two penalties and both conversions, made his most telling kick came in open play, his chip over the top of the defensive line allowing Andrew Trimble to beat Ben Foden in the left corner to score the game's first try.
Fellow winger Tommy Bowe also crossed, the Ireland international marking his 50th Heineken Cup appearance by finishing off a move that had all stemmed from a superb kick deep into opposing territory from Jared Payne, as well as Saints' inability to seal the ensuing line-out.
Any thoughts of a Northampton fightback were then quashed inside five minutes of the re-start, Payne dummying his way inside opposite number Foden to reach the line.
Jackson added his first conversion of the night to open up a 14-point gap that always looked beyond a mis-firing Saints side that included the fit-again Foden, as well as returning England duo Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood.
The closest they came to crossing was when Jamie Elliott was held up over the line by Ruan Pienaar, with Ulster even keeping their opponents out despite the late sin-binning of flanker Iain Henderson.
Despite being down to 14 the visitors still added a further try, sealing a well-deserved bonus through lock Dan Tuohy in the right corner. The conversion was missed but it did not matter; Ulster had emphatically laid down a marker to the rest that they are determined to go one better than last year.
|Friday 6th December|
|20:00||Castres vs Ospreys|
|20:00||Cardiff Blues vs Glasgow|
|Saturday 7th December|
|18:00||Northampton vs Leinster|
|13:35||Exeter vs Toulon|
|13:35||Zebre vs Saracens|
|13:35||Clermont Auvergne vs Scarlets|
|15:40||Racing Metro 92 vs Harlequins|
|18:00||Ulster vs Benetton Treviso|
|Sunday 8th December|
|15:00||Toulouse vs Connacht|
|15:00||Leicester vs Montpellier|
|12:45||Munster vs Perpignan|
|13:00||Edinburgh vs Gloucester|
|Friday 13th December|
|20:00||Ospreys vs Castres|
|20:00||Glasgow vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 14th December|
|18:00||Leinster vs Northampton|
|13:35||Toulon vs Exeter|
|15:00||Saracens vs Zebre|
|18:00||Connacht vs Toulouse|
|15:40||Scarlets vs Clermont Auvergne|
|13:35||Benetton Treviso vs Ulster|
|15:40||Perpignan vs Munster|
|Sunday 15th December|
|12:45||Harlequins vs Racing Metro 92|
|15:00||Montpellier vs Leicester|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Edinburgh|
|Saturday 11th January|
|TBC||Ospreys vs Northampton|
|Sunday 20th October|
|Clermont Auvergne 23 - 16 Harlequins|
|Glasgow 20 - 16 Exeter|
|Northampton 27 - 16 Ospreys|
|Perpignan 31 - 14 Edinburgh|
|Saturday 19th October|
|Scarlets 26 - 26 Racing Metro 92|
|Munster 26 - 10 Gloucester|
|Leinster 19 - 7 Castres|
|Montpellier 8 - 25 Ulster|
|Cardiff Blues 19 - 15 Toulon|
|Zebre 6 - 33 Connacht|
|Friday 18th October|
|Leicester 34 - 3 Benetton Treviso|
|Saracens 16 - 17 Toulouse|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Stuart Barnes with skysports.com