Ulster 41 Castres 17
Paddy Jackson scored 21 points as Ulster got their Heineken Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a 41-17 triumph over Castres.
Looking to improve on their final appearance the previous season, the hosts were superb in the first half, opening up a 23-10 lead through Andrew Trimble and Paul Marshall tries, with Jackson kicking the rest of their points. Castres' response came from Marc Andreu's touchdown and the boot of Romain Teulet, but Marshall and Ruan Pienaar went over in the second period to seal a comfortable victory, despite Marcel Garvey crossing the whitewash for a consolation score. Ulster have started 2012/13 in excellent fashion and currently reside at the top of the RaboDirect Pro12. And although they found themselves 3-0 down early on through a Teulet penalty, the hosts gradually went through the gears and ultimately ripped through the opposition. Jackson initially levelled the scores before an outstanding run from Jared Payne, who has endured a torrid time with injuries, allowed Trimble to go over in the corner. A further three-pointer from the home side's fly-half extended their advantage as the Irish province continued to control proceedings. Already under pressure from the onslaught, the French outfit's defence cracked once again as Marshall kicked and re-gathered for a simple score. However, the visitors responded when Andreu latched on to a cross-field kick and touched down to give them hope, although Jackson's penalty gave Ulster a comfortable 13-point cushion at the break. That lead was extended early in the second period as Marshall scampered across the whitewash and their stand-off added another from the tee. Castres did reduce the arrears through Garvey and when Tom Court was sin-binned, it looked as though the away side could pressurise the hosts, but Jackson confirmed the win with his fifth penalty and Pienaar secured the bonus-point with a last minute try.