Leicester Tigers were unable to get the Heineken Champions Cup campaign off to a winning start in Belfast as they were beaten 24-10 by Ulster Rugby at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday.
George Ford, who later spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin after a high tackle on Ulster full-back Michael Lowry, provided the only points of the first half, kicking a penalty from in front of the posts on the quarter-hour mark.
Incessant rain made handling difficult, while both defences also forced errors in possession in a first period every bit as close as the scoreline suggested.
But scores in the opening 20 minutes of the second half from Alan O’Connor and Will Addison put Ulster in the driving seat in the opening fixture in Pool 4.
Scrum-half John Cooney kicked both conversions and added a penalty to keep Tigers outside of bonus-point territory and the hosts made sure with a third try from wing Jacob Stockdale.
There was still time for Manu Tuilagi to show his strength on the ball in the final five minutes but that was the end of the scoring as Tigers started a 22nd season of European competition with defeat.
Tigers brought Brendon O’Connor back into the starting line-up with David Denton absent, and gave Jordan Olowofela a first European opportunity with Jonny May sidelined by a shoulder injury.
After 24 hours of rain in Northern Ireland, skies started to clear just ahead of kick-off and it was Ulster who got the game under way, though the handling conditions quickly became apparent with a number of spills early on.
A lineout infringement gave Ulster a first chance to push play into the Tigers half, though Adam Thompstone fielded well from a chip through into the corner and Ben Youngs kicked clear, as he did several more times in the half.
Another penalty put Ulster inside the Tigers 22 and they threatened among the forwards until knocking-on just 10 metres out. Tigers, though, remained in their own half until good work in midfield wrapped up possession and earned put-in at the game’s first scrum.
After an initial re-set, Ulster were penalised going backwards and Ford put their defence under pressure with a towering kick which full-back Michael Lowry spilled under pressure from Kyle Eastmond in front of the Ulsters posts.
From the resulting scrum, referee Pascal Gauzere whistled again and Ford’s penalty kick gave Tigers the first points on the board with 15 minutes played.
Burns almost put half-back partner John Cooney through a gap after the restart but just couldn’t free the ball as he knocked on.
Both sides were using high kicks to gain territory and test defences, but it was good footwork and strength in midfield by Will Addison that had Tigers in trouble on the 20-minute mark. He put Lowry on a run against an outnumbered defence and, although Ford showed good pace to get back, he was yellow-carded for a high tackle just five metres out.
Ulster used a scrum to establish an attacking platform but when they created space on the right win for Craig Gilroy, Jonah Holmes tackled him into touch as he slid towards the tryline.
Tigers were then penalised near halfway when Tom Youngs thought the ball had been lost in contact, but the defence forced another error and Greg Bateman reacted quickly to take Tigers forward.
After another penalty at the breakdown, Ulster kept the ball in the corner but lost control after a clean catch from back-rower Jordi Murphy.
With Ford in the last minute of his sin-bin, Tigers pack won a scrum penalty near halfway and it was Youngs who kicked down the right touchline as the visitors finally got back into rival territory.
They could not hold ball from the lineout, but big carries from Bateman, Tom Youngs and Harry Wells took play almost up to the tryline before Ulster won a penalty as they contested the breakdown.
Ford returned as play restarted but Ulster lost prop Ross Kane as he was replaced by Marty Moore.
Mike Williams was then penalised near halfway, allowing Ulster to set up another attacking lineout. Although Tigers stood up to up to the set-piece, the referee judged them to have done so illegally. They again repelled the drive, though referee Gauzere gave Ulster a scrum put-in as the ball was caught at the bottom of the ruck just seven metres from the tryline. The greasy ball made control difficult, though, and Ben Youngs managed to put Cooney under enough pressure that Tigers could turnover ball.
Olowofela, Bateman and skipper Youngs made useful advance on the ball but it was Tigers’ turn to lose control and Ulster won the scrap for possession on the floor.
Fly-half Burns left the field seconds before half-time after a tackle on Manu Tuilagi, with Angus Curtis taking over at 10.
With the clock already past 40 minutes, Guy Thompson won a penalty on the floor inside his own half and Ford kicked into the right-hand corner. A snappy delivery at the front of the lineout gave Tigers one more opportunity but, after setting up Ford to go for a drop goal, Best was able to block the kick. Tigers, though, still led 3-0 as the half-time whistle blew.
Burns returned at the start of the second half and Ulster were quickly on the attack with two more penalties into the left-hand side, which finally brought a breakthrough.
After taking possession at the tail of the lineout, lock Alan O’Connor made the final push to dot down.
Scrum-half Cooney kicked the conversion to make it 7-3 and Ulster instrantly burst through for what they thought was an instant second, with lock partner Iain Henderson adding the final touch in the right-hand corner.
The referee, though, wanted to look at a replay and decided a forward pass had been thrown and play restarted on halfway.
It was a big escape for Tigers but also a warning about how quickly a swing in momentum can change a tight game.
Tigers quickly tried to make the most of it with an attacking lineout taking play up the Ulster five-metre line with Tom Youngs steering the pack. Although they were stopped short, play came back for a repeat, only this time the throw was not straight and \Ulster had put-in five metres from their own tryline.
Tatafu Polota-Nau joined the front row on 54 minutes but play was starting to stretch with Williams making a big hit in defence and then Holmes chasing a 50-metre clearing kick from Kyle Eastmond which had Ulster quickly tracking back.
Ulster, though, claimed a precious score on 58 minutes when Addison found his way over on the left after a break by Sean Reidy. Cooney added the kick from the left to stretch the lead to14-3.
Matt Toomua and Sam Harrison were on the field as replacements for Eastmond and Ben Youngs and David Feao joined the front row, though Tigers were struggling to get ball back and build any phases of possession just as the clouds opened again.
Ulster’s full-back Lowry was held up over the tryline in a promising attack on 67 mutes but lay came back for a penalty and Cooney pushed the hosts 17-3 in front with 11 minutes remaining on the clock.
Joe Heyes got a taste of the European action as a replacement for Dan Cole.
A third Ulster try came on 72 minutes with wing Stockdale getting on the end of a quick attack on the left and Cooney maintained his record from the tee as he made it 24-3 with the conversion.
There was some consolation for Tigers, though, when Tuilagi broke the defensive line and ran in from the Ulster 22 to score to the left of the posts and Ford added the extras.
A Tuilagi knock-on under pressure 20 metres from his own line gave Ulster a final push for a bonus-point score but Tigers held them out and even sensed a chance of their own as Olowofela broke out, only to be closed down on the left wing as the hosts closed out victory.
Thank you to all the Tigers fans who made the trip with to Belfast this weekend and we hope you have a safe journey home.
Fighting until the end
Tigers try to work the ball for another score but the ball goes into touch and the referee calls the end of the game and it finishes 24-10 to Ulster.
Jordan Olowofela makes it into the Ulster 22 before being tackled and Tigers try to work the ball out wide and into open space but the ball is loose and there are players sliding all over the pitch. A kick out to the wing doesn't quite make it and the ball is lost into touch to end the game.
Ulster go from the lineout but Tigers win a turnover ball at the breakdown. Tigers push the wall out wide and Jordan Olowofela runs the ball back into Ulsters half and then their 22.
Ulster go for the driving maul and Tigers look to be holding them out but they are penalised by the referee and Ulster win a penalty, they go for the corner again.
Gareth Owen makes his way on to replace Manu Tuilagi.
The rain is getting heavier by the second hear in Belfast and the ball is loose as Tigers look to defend in their own half from the restart. Tigers pass the ball but Ulster win a penalty and kick for the corner.
George Ford adds the conversion for Tigers to make it 24-10 after 76 minutes.
Tigers work the ball into Ulster's 22 and there's a space for George Ford to give Manu the ball who breaks through to run over the tryline.
Ulster win the restart but the kick stays in field so Tigers look to work the ball into the Ulster half and up to the Ulster 22.
Ulster add the conversion through John Cooney to extend Ulster's lead to 24-3 after 73 minutes.
Ulster are able to work the ball out to the wing for Jacob Stockdale to run the ball over the tryline for Ulster's third try of the match.
Ulster win the ball and drive the maul before working the phases and pushing wide.
Tigers look to go quick from the lineout and drive up the ball into Ulster's 22 but Ulster win a turnover and run the ball up the field before chipping ahead. Jordan recovers the ball and kicks to touch.
Restart to Lineout
Ulster are best at the restart and clear to touch near their own 10 metre line.
Dan Cole is replaced by Joe Heyes.
Ulster convert the penalty through John Cooney to make it 17-3 after 67 minutes.
Nearly another for Ulster
Ulster disrupt the lineout and it looks like they've worked the ball into the corner to score but the ball is held up and the referee goes back for a penalty. Ulster point to the posts and kick for the penalty.
Ulster go quick at the lineout and work the ball wide but Tigers defence holds strong. Ulster chip ahead and the ball bounces into touch in Tigers 22.
Tigers work the ball back into Ulster's half with some brilliant handling in the backline but a loose ball is chipped ahead by Ulster. Tigers work back to collect the ball and clear to touch.
David Feao makes his way onto the pitch to replace Greg Bateman.
More side to side
The ball is moving side to side as much as the ball is changing hands so far, both sides seem to be trying to break the defence but there's a high ball and Ulster think they've made a break but are called back for a forward pass for a Tigers scrum.
Ulster make the best of the restart and kick ahead to get into touch outside Tigers 22.
Tigers make another replacement and it is Tommy Reffell on for Brendon O'Connor.
Ulster add the conversion through John Cooney to make it 14-3 after 59 minutes.
Ulster build the phases from the lineout and there's a break into Tigers 22 before they push out wide and Will Addison scores in the corner.
Sam Harrison and Matt Toomua are on the pitch replacing Ben Youngs and Kyle Eastmond.
Tigers look to make a break and Ben Youngs go quick from the ruck but the ball goes loose and Ulster chip ahead into Tigers half. George Ford is there quickest and clears to touch but Ulster get the lineout just outside Tigers 22.
End to End
Ulster get into Tigers 22 but a chip ahead has the play back in Ulster's 22, Jonah Holmes chases but Ulster recover the ball. Each team is making breaks and testing chip aheads as Tigers attack in the Ulster half.
Tatafu Polota-Nau makes his way onto the pitch to replace Tom Youngs.
Side to Side
Ulster disrupt the lineout and try to push wide with a chip across the pitch and Jonah Holmes tries to collect it but is called for a knock-on and it's Ulster's scrum on the half-way.
Ulster run the ball from the scrum and kick for touch but only get up between their 10 metre and the 22.
Lineout to Scrum
Tigers are penalised for the throw not being straight in the lineout and Ulster call for the scrum on their own 5 metre line.
Tigers drive the lineout and get the ball out wide but can't use the advantage awarded by the referee. We are called back and go for the lineout on the 5 metre line.
Tigers go quick with the ball from the scrum and get abreak into the Ulster 22 but a chip ahead gives Ulster the ball. Ulster return the kick and Tigers attack, winning a penalty at the breakdown and Ford goes for the corner.
Ulster nearly score again
Ulster are quick from the kick-off and look to have chipped ahead to score in the corner but before the conversion can be awarded the TMO gets the referee to check and there is a forward pass so it's Tigers scrum on half-way.
Ulster add the conversion through John Cooney to make it 7-3 after 43 minutes.
Ulster go for another driving maul from the lineout but break away to run at the Tigers tryline before Alan O'Connor pushes his way over for the first try of the match.
Ulster Driving Maul
Ulster go for the driving maul and it looks like Sione Kalamafoni has stolen the ball but the referee calls back for a penalty and Ulster go for a lineout in the corner.
Tigers work the ball well after Ulster kick clear but Tigers are penalised in the breakdown, Ulster kick for the lineout on Tigers 22.
Second Half Kick-Off
Tigers are out first, followed by Ulster for the second-half and it's Fordy to kick it off.
George Ford kick's the ball into touch for half-time and Tigers hold on to the 3-0 lead.
Going for the drop goal
Tigers work the ball well from the lineout and work well into the Ulster 22, Ben Youngs passes to George Ford for the drop goal but it is charged down. Manu is quickest to the ball and secures it for Ford to clear it to touch for half-time.
Ulster look to run the ball from the scrum despite the clock going red and get into Tigers half but Guy Thompson is over the ball at the breakdown to win a penalty. Despite being over 40 George Ford kicks for the lineout with a beautiful kick to the corner.
Tigers create some great lines off the lineout to test the Ulster attack but the ball is lost forward in a tackle and it's Ulster's scrum on the half-way.
Tigers win the scrum
Ulster get the ball at the scrum but it is loose and Tigers win the ball. They run it wide and Jordan Olowofela steps to make even more ground. The ball is chipped ahead and Ulster return the kick but George Ford offloads to Tom Youngs who runs up the wing, yes Tom Youngs, but as the ball is worked back inside it is loose and Ulster kick to touch on the half-way for a Tigers lineout.
Ulster look to create another driving maul but it goes to ground and the referee calls for a Ulster scrum.
Ulster go again
Ulster create the driving maul and looks like Tigers have won the ball back but the referee awards a penalty to Ulster and they go for another lineout.
Ulster go for the corner
Ulster win a penalty for a tackle off he ball and kick to the corner.
Ulster win the ball and look to push the driving maul, they kick ahead and it's a battle in the air but Ulster have it and are back in attack in the Tigers half.
Just as Ulster kick for the lineout George Ford returns from the sin-bin.
It's loose ball in the lineout and Ulster win the ball, they kick ahead but Adam Thompstone catches it and Tigers are back in attack. Tigers are building phases and working into the Ulster 5 metres and up to the tryline but are penalised at the breakdown.
Tigers win a penalty from the scrum on the half-way and Ben Youngs steps in for George Ford to kick to touch for a lineout in Ulster's 22.
Ulster are working the ball across the pitch and testing Tigers defence but Tigers win a scrum at the breakdown after a loose ball from Ulster.
Ulster win the lineout and look to drive the ball but Tigers are able to turn the ball over and kick to touch.
Side to Side
Ulster look to take advantage of the yellow card and again ship the ball wide, chipping ahead into the Tigers 22, Tigers recover the ball but are penalised at the breakdown and Ulster kick for the lineout.
Ulster win the lineout ball, creating the driving maul but pass out wide to test Tigers defence. Tigers turnover the ball in a tackle and Greg Bateman finds space to run the ball back at Ulster but a loose ball and Ben Youngs has to clear the lines with a kick to touch.
Tigers look to go quick at the lineout and clear ahead but Ulster run the ball back and win the penalty at the breakdown. They kick for touch and get the lineout just inside the Tigers 22.
We have a few reset scrums before Ulster get a scrum where they push the ball out wide, Craig Gilroy looks to dot down in the corner but the referee checks the tackle from Jonah Holmes and he is pushed into touch for a Tigers lineout.
Tigers George Ford is shown a yellow card for a high tackle and Ulster have a scrum on Tigers 5 metre line.
Ulster chip ahead from the scrum but Jordan Olowofela collects and returns the kick but Ulster break through the line and Tigers are only able to bring them down on the 5 metre line where Manu wins turnover but the referee blows the whistle for a penalty.
End to End Kicking
Ulster kick for touch but are unable to find it, instead find Jonah Holmes, passing to George Ford who kicks for touch but Ulster go quickly and win a scrum for a knock-on.
Good Work Jordan
Tigers kick ahead from the scrum and Jordan Olowofela reads the kick to get up and under it but there is a penalty at the breakdown.
It's messy at the restart with loose ball from both sides, Ulster look to run the ball but there's a knock-on from Ulster and Tigers for another Tigers scrum.
Tigers with the first points of the match through George Ford, 0-3 after 14 minutes.
It's a messy scrum and the ball is out with Ulster collecting it and running up the field but the referee calls them back and it's a penalty for Tigers, George Ford points to the posts.
Tigers look to work the ball into the Ulster 22, George Ford kicks high and Kyle Eastmond chases with enough pressure on Ulster's Michael Lowry for a knock-on and a Tigers scrum.
Tigers win the penalty at the first scrum of the game and kick for a lineout on Ulster's 10 metre line.
Ulster have a better lineout and get the ball out into the middle of the pitch but Kyle Eastmond and Guy Thompson hold up the Ulster centre to win the first scrum of the game.
It's a scrappy lineout and the phases that follow are jsut as scrappy but Ulster with the ball and attacking the Tigers 22 but there's a knock-on from Ulster and Tigers clear the ball for a lineout back near the 10 metre line.
Ulster have the lineout but Tigers secure the ball and look for territory but the kick stays in play and as Ulster attack they win a penalty at the breakdown. They kick for touch and get a lineout in Tigers 22.
It's now a test for the Tigers defence and Ulster attack from the lineout, building phases into Tigers 22 but a chip into the corner is collected by Adam Thompstone and kicked clear by Ben Youngs for another Ulster lineout.
Ulster look to control the driving maul from the lineout and win a penalty, they kick for a lineout on the half-way line.
Testing the Defence
Tigers look to build phases off the lineout but the ball looks wet and there are some careful passes exchanged but Tigers are pushed into touch, Ulster lineout.
Tigers with the kick-off make their way up the pitch, Jordan Olowofela collects the ball on the half way, chips ahead. Ulster can only clear outside their 22 for a Tigers lineout
Here we go
The teams run out together and it's Ulster to kick-off and get us under way.
The teams have finished and are back in the changing rooms so only minutes away from kick-off here in Belfast!
Crofty on Europe
LTTV caught up with Tom Croft about playing in Europe as part of the club's touring party to Belfast.
Watch the chat here.
Tigers on Tour
Quick Questions with Geordan
Tigers coach Geordan Murphy answered some quick questions about European rugby ahead of today's game and you can watch here.
Welcome to Belfast
Hello and welcome to Belfast as Tigers visit Ulster Rugby in the first round of the Heineken Champions Cup.