Pro14: Evans stars as Cardiff Blues beat Ulster
|Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Ulster|
|Cardiff Blues (17) 35|
|Tries: Evans, Scully, Dacey, Lewis Cons: Evans 3 Pens: Evans 3|
|Ulster (6) 17|
|Try: Shanahan Pens: Cooney 4|
Cardiff Blues' fly-half Jarrod Evans starred with 20 points as his team beat Ulster 35-17 in the battle of the Pro14's two fourth-placed sides.
Evans, 21, scored an early try and created two more for Kristian Dacey and Dillon Lewis with Blaine Scully also crossing.
Rusty-looking Ulster relied on John Cooney's four penalties and a late try from Dave Shanahan.
Blues are now five points off third place in Conference A.
Ulster, who are now 13 points behind third-placed Edinburgh with a game in hand and are struggling to make the Champions Cup or the Pro14 play-offs, went 14-3 down inside 14 minutes.
Evans danced over at the posts in the second minute after a sweeping build-up on both sides of the field, while Scully cut through on the angle after a Matthew Morgan half-break and a flick pass by Tomos Williams.
John Cooney slotted 40-metre penalties after five and 38 minutes to keep the visitors' in the game, but Ulster did not help themselves when prop Wiehahn Herbst was yellow-carded after 28 minutes for a swinging arm to the head of Evans,
Tomos Williams had a touch-down ruled out for a forward pass, but Evans returned from his head injury assessment to land a penalty on the stroke of half-time, adding to his earlier conversions to make it 17-6 at the break.
Cooney landed two more penalties but the Evans master-class continued as he broke through to put Dacey in after 56 minutes, then added two more penalties to put his side three scores clear.
Ulster finally put together some concerted pressure, but they were not rewarded under the 79th minute when rookie scrum-half Shanahan scored a consolation effort.
That allowed Cardiff Blues one final attack and Evans' pass sent replacement prop Dillon Lewis galloping over for the bonus point, Evans' conversion fittingly ending the game.
One negative for Cardiff Blues was a serious-looking knee injury to former Wales captain Matthew Rees, with the veteran hooker hobbling off with a knee injury after 11 minutes after a brave effort to continue.
They have Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe to return for the European Challenge Cup quarter-final in Edinburgh on Saturday 31 March, but Evans' display represents a serious challenge for the number ten shirt.
Both teams' next fixture is at Murrayfield, with Ulster needing to win there on April 6 to keep their season alive.
Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson told BBC Sport Wales: "We are over the moon. To get a bonus point win over Ulster is outstanding but to do it as our fifth win in a row is a real achievement and it shows where this group is growing to.
"He [Jarrod Evans] has been superb. He is such a threat with the ball and his defensive work against two big powerful centres was amazing, I can't credit him enough."
Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; B Scully, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, O Lane; J Evans, T Williams; G Jenkins (capt), M Rees, S Andrews, G Earle, S Davies, J Turnbull, E Jenkins, N Williams.
Replacements: K Dacey, R Gill, D Lewis, B Murphy, M Cook, L Williams, S Shingler, G Smith
Ulster: C Piutau; C Gilroy, L Marshall, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; J McPhillips, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, W Herbst, A O'Connor (Capt), K Treadwell, I Henderson, C Ross, N Timoney.
Replacements: J Andrew, C Black, R Kane, M Dalton, M Rea, D Shanahan, P Nelson, L Ludik.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White (SRU), Dunx McClement (SRU)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)