Ulster lose out by one point
Ulster 20 Scarlets 21
Ulster missed out on a gilt-edged chance to return to the top of the PRO12 when falling to The Scarlets at The Kingspan yesterday.
The porous Ulster midfield will have annoyed their Director of Rugby Les Kiss, the former national defence coach, with Darren Cave badly exposed.
The free-running nature of the first-half suited the Welsh as they primed their three-quarters for two tries from full-back Michael Collins in the fourth and 23rd minutes to hold a 15-10 lead.
In between, captain Paddy Jackson hit a drop goal and converted a dazzling try by wing Craig Gilroy at the end of the first quarter.
In fact, the province moved ahead from Paul Marshall's snipe and Luke Marshall's (inset) clean finish in the corner for Jackson's extras to make it 17-15 at the break.
Ulster were able to lift the intensity of their work without the ball considerably to collar The Scarlets attack.
The Welsh had to settle for penalties by out-half Aled Thomas in the 46th and 49th minutes for a 21-17 edge, Chris Henry binned in the lead up to the second.
Ulster's increased aggression in the tackle was met with a contrasting dive in danger on the ball.
They got close enough for Jackson to claim a 63rd minute penalty.
The Scarlets shut up shop to climb to third just behind Leinster on points-difference and two points off the leaders Connacht.