EDINBURGH buckled under pressure with a sloppy performance that leaves them trailing their Guinness PRO14 rivals and in danger of getting nothing from the season that had looked so promising at one stage.

Since the bitter disappointment of their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final defeat by Munster, they have struggled to find consistency, rescuing themselves last week with a dominant second 40 minutes but unable to repeat the dramatic comeback for a second match in a row.

"From start to finish we did not control the game, we did not do what we said we would do going into the game," head coach Richard Cockerill said. "Ulster are too good a side to let you off the hook.

"The thing is that if you don't control the ball and don't control the ball when you have it and spend a lot of time defending, you are going to look tired and we did not control the game. And if you don't control the game you are working twice as hard."

The real unfortunate aspect of the game from his point of view was that Munster had beaten Benetton Treviso, who had started the night a point ahead, but his players were unable to take advantage, leaving the relative positions unchanged.

Treviso face Zebre, the worst team in their conference, in the final game and if they win with a bonus point, there is nothing Edinburgh can do to overtake them, leaving them battling with the Scarlets for the consolation of a one-off game against Cardiff Blues or Connacht for the final Heineken Champions Cup spot.

Realistically, Edinburgh never looked at the races. The Irish seemed a bit more at home with the pressure from the start, opening the stronger with John Cooney, the scrum-half, landing an early penalty to settle his side while the home side looked tentative ball in hand.

It was even more obvious when Stuart McCloskey, the visiting centre, chipped into space, setting up a ruck on the Edinburgh line. Both sides got hands on the ball but when Grant Gilchrist managed to rip it clear from Nick Timoney, it bounced loose and the other Ulster flanker, Jordi Murphy, was the first to react, gathering the ball and diving over for the opening try.

Cooney converted and there was more misery for Cockerill’s men when fly-half Jaco van der Walt missed a reasonably simple shot at goal, though he would also have been encouraged by signs that when Darcy Graham did get his hands on the ball, he was capable of finding space.

On the downside, van der Walt was having problems with his kicking game, putting one kick over the Ulster line and twice missing touch from penalties. The Irish were looking far more dangerous, dominating possession and forcing the Scots to defend for long periods, and it took a vital turnover from WP Nel to save their line after a lengthy period when Ulster had been hammering on it.

When they did spring to life, however, there was some sparkle with Pierre Schoeman, the prop, setting them on fire with a charge through the middle, setting them up for their best attack, but ending when Mark Bennett could not take Hamish Watson’s attempted off-load a yard out.

It looked a crucial miss but just how important was soon underlined as Ulster moved back upfield, won a line-out on the home 22 and fly-half Billy Burns threw out a huge miss pass to Robert Baloucoune, the former Sevens speedster on the wing. He had enough space to wrong-foot Graham and outpace Henry Pyrgos to the line.

To have any hope, Edinburgh needed a quick start to the second half but that never materialised as the Ulster pack settled down to a big defensive shift, soaking up everything that Edinburgh could throw at them and helped by crucial mistakes every time they looked to be building momentum.

Edinburgh ran through the bench to try to lift the energy levels but none of it worked, and when Ulster did get a chance they were perfectly willing to show the home side how to turn pressure into points with Jacob Stockdale making the extra man for wing Rob Lyttle to step through the first line of defence and carry three tacklers over the line.

Time was starting to run out when Edinburgh did eventually get on the scoreboard, John Barclay selling an outrageous dummy to send the Ulster backline the wrong way and stroll the rest of the way to the line.

Any thoughts they had of a huge comeback would have needed them to cut out the mistakes and they could not manage that. More errors kept play in Edinburgh territory and it was the Irish who had the final word with Burns slipping through some sloppy tackling to claim the bonus point seconds from the end.

Scorers: Edinburgh: Try: Barclay. Con: Hickey.

Ulster: Tries: Murphy, Baloucoune, Lyttle, Burns. Cons: Cooney 3. Pen: Cooney

Edinburgh: D Graham; D Hoyland (G Taylor, 44), M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt (S Hickey, 32), H Pyrgos (C Shiel, 64); P Schoeman (Allan Dell, 62), S McInally (C) (R Ford, 67), W Nel (S Berghan, 44), B Toolis (C Hunter-Hill, 67), G Gilchrist, M Bradbury (J Barclay, 49), H Watson, V Mata.

Ulster: J Stockdale; R Baloucoune (A Kernohan, 49), L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Lyttle; B Burns (P Nelson, 79), J Cooney (D Shanahan, 79); E O’Sullivan (A Warwick, 73), R Herring (J Andrew, 73), M Moore (R Kane, 19), I Henderson (C), K Treadwell (A O’Connor, 62), N Timoney (S Reidy, 67), J Murphy, M Coetzee.

Referee: N Owens (Wales)

Attendance: 7,856