Two tries from back-rower Nick Timoney ensured Ulster made it four bonus-point wins from four as they defeated the Lions at the Kingspan Stadium.

The win allowed the province to return to the top of the United Rugby Championship table, with James Hume and Matty Rea also crossing for tries in a hard-fought game which saw Ulster lead 12-10 at half-time.

Ulster had their first score after just three minutes when a short lineout throw to Andy Warwick allowed him to find Timoney, who had peeled around.

Nathan Doak missed the conversion but instead of pushing on, several errors allowed the Lions back in the game and on 17 minutes they worked their way over the line through Stean Pienaar, with EW Viljoen converting to put the visitors ahead 7-5.

After 34 minutes Ulster seized back the lead when a multi-phase attack resulted in Hume crossing the line with a man spare after the home side had simply worn the Lions' defence out.

This time Doak converted and Ulster now led 12-7, but the half ended with the Lions closing the gap thanks to Viljoen's long-range penalty.

After Will Addison was stretchered off early in the second half, following a collision with a Lions player, Ulster had try number three sewn up when a tap and go resulted in Rea being driven over the line, with Doak converting again.

Ulster then should have had their bonus point when Tom O'Toole’s pass to Alan O’Connor sent the lock charging for the line only to be held up short, with Doak trying to wriggle over when a pass ought to have been thrown.

The bonus point still looked inevitable and came when Timoney dotted down for the second time from a close-in drive with Doak converting.