Match Report: Ulster Rugby 17-15 Newport-Gwent Dragons

Sean Reidy

Sean Reidy scored Ulster’s first try

Paddy Jackson’s late penalty spared Ulster’s blushes and sent them top of the Guinness PRO12 table as they scraped past the Newport-Gwent Dragons at the Kingspan Stadium, winning 17-15.

Jackson, one of three players released from international duty to play, came on at half-time and landed a conversion and the penalty three minutes from time that rescued the four points for Ulster.

The Dragons had led for most of the game through tries from Adam Hughes and Carl Meyer, while Ulster responded with a Sean Reidy score and a penalty try off a rolling maul however this was a game they well and truly scrounged out.

After an extended spell of pressure in the Ulster half it was the visitors who got off to the best start possible when fly-half O’Brien slotted over a fourth minute penalty from a scrum.

Despite Ulster having most of the ball and the territory, they were unable to capitalise on their promising field position and when the Dragons finally turned the ball over they were lethal.

Dangerous winger Ashton Hewitt made a long mazy run through the Ulster defence which opened up the home defence enough for full-back Carl Meyer to stab the ball through which centre Adam Hughes gathered and slid over to score.

Stunned by falling behind, Ulster powered back and they thought they had a try just after the midway point of the first half when a maul rumbled over the line only for a Dragons player to get underneath and hold it up.

They wouldn’t have to wait much longer for the opening try though as openside flanker Sean Reidy showed power and pace to break a tackle and charge over the line in the 25th minute.

Humphreys landed the difficult touchline conversion and then thought he had a try of his own when he intercepted an O’Brien pass and ran it in for the score, only for it to be chalked out by an Ulster knock on earlier in the move.

And Les Kiss’ side nearly found themselves another try down as the Dragons attacked with fervour towards the end of the half and but for a crucial last ditch tackle by Jacob Stockdale then Adam Hughes would have been over for his second of the evening.

The visitors weren’t to be kept at bay for too long though and despite the introductions of Paddy Jackson, Stuart McCloskey and Nick Williams at the start of the second half, Ulster could not deny the Dragons their second score.

Full-back Meyer was the one who picked the line through for the score without an Ulster hand laid on him, however it looked like there was a case for crossing as Meyer found his way through.

But Ulster once again came roaring back in the 52nd minute and the Dragons had no answer for another powerful drive from the Ulster pack which resulted in Nigel Owens going under the posts and lock Matthew Screech going to the bin for ten minutes.

Lyn Jones’ men then found themselves down to 13 men when debutant flanker Ben White was guilty of tackling Pete Browne around the neck three minutes later, a tackle that caused the lock to come off dazed.

But the home side couldn’t make the most of their two man advantage even though they thought they had when Roger Wilson crossed in the corner for their third disallowed try, this time courtesy of a McCloskey knock on in the build-up.

It looked like Jackson might have spurned a glorious opportunity to win the game when his penalty eight minutes from time rebounded off the crossbar, but given a second opportunity three minutes from the end, the Irish fly-half made no mistake.

 

The scorers

For Ulster

Tries: Reidy, Penalty

Cons: Humphreys, Jackson

Pen: Jackson

For Dragons

Tries: Hughes, Meyer

Con: O’Brien

Pen: O’Brien

 

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Louis Ludik (Stuart McCloskey 40), Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Stuart Olding (Paul Marshall 66), Jacob Stockdale, Ian Humphreys (Paddy Jackson 40), Ruan Pienaar; (1-8) Callum Black (Kyle McCall 49), Rob Herring, Ricky Lutton (Bronson Ross 69), Alan O’Connor, Pete Browne (John Andrew 56), Robbie Diack (Nick Williams 43), Sean Reidy (Clive Ross 53), Roger Wilson.

NEWPORT-GWENT DRAGONS

(15-9) Carl Meyer, Ashton Hewitt, Adam Hughes, Adam Warren, Hallam Amos, Angus O’Brien, Charlie Davies; (1-8) Phil Price (Boris Stankovich 57), Elliott Dee, Brok Harris (Shaun Knight 64), Matthew Screech, Rynard Landman, Ben White (Cory Hill 67), Nic Cudd, Ed Jackson (James Benjamin 33).

Subs not used: Rhys Buckley, Sarel Pretorius, Geraint Rhys Jones, Nick Scott.

Sin bin: Matthew Screech (53’), Ben White (56’)

 

Man of the Match: Paddy Jackson (Ulster)

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)