Ireland wingers Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble both scored tries on their return to action for Ulster but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 23-10 defeat to Edinburgh at Goldenacre.
The visitors were hit with the late withdrawal of Ian Humphreys – who suffered a hamstring injury in the warm up – so Sam Windsor came into the starting XV.
Ulster dominated the opening half hour but only had a Bowe try to show for their efforts, as Edinburgh scored two tries in a six minute spell to go into half time 17-5 ahead.
Bowe had a scintillating break early on but the hosts scrambled back and managed to win a turnover at the following ruck. It was Edinburgh who opened the scoring in the 16th minute through a penalty from scrumhalf Nathan Fowles after a breakdown infringement.
Ulster had the perfect response as Bowe went over in the right hand corner after a superb initial break by McCloskey. The powerful centre took a lovely pass from Sam Windsor and charged through before producing an exquisite offload to Craig Gilroy, who in turn found Bowe for an easy finish. Windsor’s conversion attempt was wayward.
Ulster continued to control proceedings but found no way through. Edinburgh then hit back with a period of possession in the Ulster 22 and after a series of close range drives, Magnus Bradbury forced his way over. Fowles added the conversion to put his team into a 10-5 lead after 34 minutes and the hosts touched down again on the stroke of half time courtesy of Otulea Katoa. Flyhalf Phil Burleigh was the architect for that score as his beautifully delayed pass sent Nick McLennan through to feed the Tongan speedster. Again, Fowles added the extras, giving his team a 17-5 advantage at the interval.
Ulster started the second half positively but as with most of the first 40 minutes, the Edinburgh defence held firm. The Scottish side also had a few opportunities but there were no scores in the third quarter.
Eventually Ulster found a breakthrough as Andrew Trimble took a great line and a big reach saw him cross the whitewash. With Windsor coming off for David Shanahan, Luke Marshall took over the kicking duties but skewed his conversion attempt.
Edinburgh replacement Jack Cuthbert knocked over two later penalties to put the game beyond doubt and seal a 23-10 win for the hosts.
Ulster will look for a much more clinical performance next week against Ospreys in their first competitive game of the season. Click here to book tickets for the 2015/16 PRO12 opener.