Ulster remain on course for a home quarter-final in the URC after a bonus-point win but Cardiff’s hopes of finishing in the top eight are virtually over.
he visitors ran in six tries, replacement hooker Tom Stewart collecting two of them, as they claimed victory in the Welsh capital.
Dan McFarland’s men got off to a dream start when centre Stewart Moore sliced clean through the fragile home defence in only the second minute and they finally reached their goal of four tries in the 52nd minute when Billy Burns scored after constant pressure from the forwards.
In between those two scores the Irish side had flexed their muscles to such good effect that barring a moment of magic from Samoan centre Rey Lee-Lo, playing his 150th game for Cardiff, they were under little or no threat.
That Lee-Lo moment came after eight minutes when he bounced off two would-be tacklers and somehow released a one-handed pass out of the back of his hand. That fed Owen Lane who ran in unopposed.
Moments later, Jarrod Evans landed a penalty and somehow Cardiff led 8-7. Not for long, though.
Some magic up to the left touchline from Jacob Stockdale, with a trademark chip and chase, saw him crash over in the corner.
Ulster scrum-half Nathan Doak, who managed to convert all six tries, sniped over for one of his own to make it three tries in 25 minutes.
Once Burns had bagged the bonus there was time for replacement Stewart to enjoy himself with two tries — the first only a minute after he had taken to the field.
Cardiff rallied late on with a second try for Lane, set-up once again by Lee-Lo and then replacement wing Aled Summerfield went on a solo run to score.Evans converted the latter, but it was too little too late.
Cardiff: B Thomas; O Lane, R Lee-Lo, M Llewellyn, J Harries; J Evans, L Williams; R Carre, K Dacey, D Lewis, L Timani, S Davies, J Turnbull (capt), E Jenkins, J Ratti. Reps: L Belcher (for Dacey, 54), C Domachowski (for Carre, 54), K Assiratti (for Lewis, 54-56), T Williams (for Davies, 57), S Lewis-Hughes (for Ratti, 57), E Bevan (for L Williams, 25), A Summerhill (for Lee-Lo, 66), M Morgan (for Thomas, 65)
Ulster: M Lowry; B Moxham, J Hume, S Moore, J Stockdale; B Burns, N Doak; R Sutherland, R Herring (capt), J Toomaga-Allen; K Treadwell, S Carter; D McCann, M Rea, N Timoney.Reps: T Stewart (for Herring, 58), C Reid (for Sutherland, 58), G Milasinovich (for Toomaga-Allen, 69), A O’Connor (for Carter, 49), H Sheridan (for Treadwell, 71), J Postlethwaite (for Hume, 58), E McIlroy (for Stockdale, 63)