Hartpury and Ulster A fought out a tight encounter that was not decided until a David Busby try with the final play of the match.
The result effectively ends any interest Hartpury may have had in the British & Irish Cup, a competition that will not be returning next season.
This was a match which managed to entertain the pre-Christmas crowd, without ever reaching any great heights in terms of quality. Ulster just about deserved the result, by virtue of scoring five tries to four and making fewer mistakes.
On a cold but dry day, neither side managed to establish any decisive advantage although both enjoyed periods of pressure. The visitors were marginally more clinical in finishing the chances that came their way and that, in the end, was the difference.
Ulster started the brighter, but Hartpury had worked their way into the game and were on the attack when the first score came. Hartpury failed to look after the ball and Ulster were away.
The initial burst was stopped short of the line, but the ball was quickly recycled and lock forward Matt Dalton was in acres of space to score easily.
That was in the 13th minute, but Hartpury had edged into the lead shortly after the half-hour mark.
Pressure brought a series of penalties and from an attacking lineout in the Ulster 22 the forwards drove over, prop Dan Murphy the ball-carrier.
10 minutes later, Ulster were creaking again and this time it was a scrum that was the platform for centre Luke Eves to crash over.
12-7 was the half-time score, but Hartpury were vulnerable after the break against Ealing last week and so it was in this match.
Ulster were awarded a penalty close to half-way and, with Hartpury not fully alert, Irish scrum half Jonny Stewart was away. There was cover to close him down, but centre Callum Patterson was in support to finish comfortably.
Five minutes later, Ulster extended their lead when some weak defence allowed winger Rob Lyttle to score.
Hartpury needed to bounce back and they laid siege to the Ulster line. The visitors defended resolutely but lost lock Pete Browne to a yellow card in the process.
However, it looked as though Hartpury’s chance had gone before scrum-half Harry Cochrane found a chink in the Ulster rear-guard and sprinted in from 40 metres (pictured).
Hartpury were back level, but not for long. Almost from the re-start, the Ulster forwards were driving to the try-line and it was hooker Adam McBurney who had them back in front.
Again Hartpury responded and, in the 67th minute, an excellent break from replacement James Williams created the chance for Darrel Dyer to re-establish parity. Evans was inches wide with the conversion and, as the clocked ticked down, a draw looked like being the outcome.
Ulster did apply pressure in the closing minutes but on more than one occasion Hartpury appeared to have weathered the storm.
Then, with time up on the clock, the hosts were guilty of over-playing in their own half. The ball was hacked through and Ulster winger Busby was on hand to apply the final touch.
Hartpury: Coulson, Ducker, Seabrook, Eves (Try 32), Sheldon, Evans (Cons 33, 57), Cochrane (Try 56); Murphy (Try 21), Crane, Ibuanokpe, Edwards, Oakley, Grieve, Hinkley, Dyer (Try 67). Subs: Mullis, Flook, Heard, Quinn, Gilbert, Wilcox, Williams.
Ulster A: Owens, Busby (Try 80), Patterson (Try 42), Lyttle (Try 48), McPhillips, Stewart; O’Hagan, McBurney (Try 58), O’Toole, Browne, Dalton (Try 13), Ross, Hall, Jones. Subs: McHall, O’Sullivan, McCusker, Rea, Cairns, Shanahan, Kernohan
Referee: Mr Karl Dickson