Ulster through to last eight
1999 champions run in six tries to progress as a best runner-up
Last Updated: 22/01/11 3:37pm
Wannenburg: two tries for Ulster
Ulster qualified for the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup on Saturday after beating Aironi 43-6 in their final Pool Four match.
With Biarritz also beating Bath, Brian McLaughlin's side will therefore progress to the quarter-finals as one of the two best runners-up.
The 1999 champions had appeared poised to top the group for a short period during the second half of the match before the French side matched their own bonus-point try.
That score came in a flurry of tries at the start of the second half, Ulster having headed into the interval just four points clear after Andrew Trimble opened the scoring.
Nerves were calmed, though, when Pedrie Wannenburg crossed twice in the space of three minutes - Ulster also getting the better of a strong Aironi pack when they earned the bonus-point try soon after.
The visitors started in confident fashion and went ahead with an Ian Humphreys three-pointer in the third minute after Jacob Erasmus was penalised inside his own 22.
Ulster continued to have more of the play and were looking good with ball in hand. However, they were perhaps over-elaborate at times and failed to make their early possession pay.
Indeed, with Aironi scrum-half Mickey Wilson having limped off to be replaced by Tito Tebaldi, it was the home side who had the clearest chance of the opening quarter, with Erasmus appearing on a right-hand overlap in the 17th minute. However, the final pass was adjudged forward.
Ulster punished their hosts six minutes later when, with Ruan Pienaar having fed Adam D'Arcy off the back of the scrum, the full-back took advantage of a three on two to set up Trimble, with Humphreys converting.
Aironi pressed from the kick-off and put their first points on the board when James Marshall kicked a drop goal three minutes later, with Humphreys missing a penalty attempt soon after.
The home side then pressed, with a big hit from Stephen Ferris and a turnover gained by Trimble halting Aironi's progress before Tebaldi kicked an impressive 45-metre penalty.
Their lead having been hauled back to four points, Ulster ended the half heading forward, although their best break ended with Ferris' pass to Simon Danielli being adjudged forward.
Ulster's second try came barely a minute into the second half when, having won a line-out, a rolling maul ended with Wannenburg touching down.
Humphreys kicked the extras, as he did moments later after Wannenburg had crossed for what amounted to a carbon copy effort - Matteo Pratichetti's offside infringement this time allowing Ulster to kick for the right-hand corner.
Ulster suddenly found themselves with over half-an-hour in which to chase a bonus-point try. In the event they had to wait just 10 minutes - further pressure resulting in a penalty try after Aironi collapsed the scrum one time too many.
Wannenburg was also on hand to set up Ulster's fifth try, scored by replacement Chris Henry in the 66th minute, with Danielli adding another with just two minutes remaining.
Humphreys converted the first but ultimately failed in his bid for a 100 per cent record.