19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
Ulster's ability to grind out results when underperforming sends a clear message to the league's chasing pack, however with a big December to come they know they will have to improve their performance levels.
Ulster's first half performance in Treviso was full of menace in attack, but again they showed signs of frailty in defence.
Paddy Wallace put in two strong runs in the opening five minutes, but poor lineout organisation from Ulster allowed Treviso to exploit a gap on their right wing.
With the visitors under pressure, a fluid movement from the Italian backs culminated in full-back Brendan Williams going over for an eighth minute try converted by Alberto di Bernardo.
A similar steal at the Treviso lineout moments later by Rob Herring promised much but delivered little as Ulster surrendered the ball deep in home territory.
Nonetheless, better concentration in subsequent set plays saw them piece together their most promising early attack. Firstly, Nick Williams lurched for the line after strong probing from Neil McComb, but was denied the try thanks to an inconclusive replay.
With the Italians collapsing the resulting scrum, number 10 O'Connor opted for three simple points from just in front of the posts.
Better yet was to come in the 23rd minute as Paul Marshall's trademark quickly-tapped penalty enabled the scrum half to steal several metres on the retreating Treviso defence before supplying Tom Court.
The Ireland prop showed some good pace to break into the 22 and he then fed young full-back Nelson, who ran a sharp diagonal line to touch down in the right corner undeterred by Williams' last-ditch tackle. O'Connor converted perfectly from wide out to make it 10-7.
At this stage, however, the tide turned back in the Italians' favour. The boot of di Bernardo restored parity on the half hour mark, and Treviso went on to close out the half entrenched in Ulster territory.
They reaped the benefits in the 40th minute as winger Ludovico Nitoglia exposed another post-scrum gap down the Ulster right to slide over in the corner.
That di Bernardo's conversion screwed well wide of the posts was scant consolation for Mark Anscombe's side as they ran off five points adrift at the break.
Ulster's start to the second half was similarly lacklustre, with more lost lineout ball and a missed touch from O'Connor within the first five minutes.
But a clever pinch by McComb at the Italians' put-in moments later set the wheels back in motion. Soon after, a Treviso offside gave O'Connor office to dispatch his second close range penalty of the encounter.
Then a driving Ulster maul with Herring at the helm frustratingly resulted in a second denied score for Williams, as television match official Stefano Marama faced the impossible task of determining whether the Kiwi had grounded the ball amid a mass of bodies.
With play then taken back for an earlier Treviso infringement, the province's stand-in captain Roger Wilson elected for the posts. However, the angle proved too tight for O'Connor and the scoreboard remained static.
It was not long before the out-half got the chance to atone for the miss though, and this time, from the right flank, he got his angles spot on, crucially moving the Ulstermen ahead - 16-15 - with 58 minutes on the clock.
Ulster spent the next 10 minutes defending their lead, proving more than a match for what their hosts could throw at them in terms of attacking breaks.
When the Italians earned a 72nd minute penalty barely in their opponents' half, the posts proved well out of di Bernardo's range.
However, a further penalty five minutes later with John Afoa pulled up for coming in from the side, was in a much more inviting area for di Bernardo.
His kick should have shaded a marginal victory for the Italian side, but he missed the target from the 22, sending the ball harmlessly wide of the left hand post.
It was to prove Treviso's very last chance and as the match ended, the Italians were left wondering just how they had contrived to come away with nothing to show for their efforts but a losing bonus point.
Ulster, meanwhile, can be buoyed by the fact that they came away with a vital away win despite giving perhaps their poorest display of the season to date.
|Benetton Treviso Score Card|
|Alberto di Bernardo||1||1||5|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|