Ulster bought their new coach Matt Williams the perfect welcoming present: a six-try 38-13 victory over the Dragons at Ravenhill on Friday night.
Ulster bought their new coach Matt Williams the perfect welcoming present: a six-try 38-13 victory over the Dragons at Ravenhill on Friday night, a result that allows the home side to put Connacht between themselves and the bottom of the Magners League table.
After only leading the Dragons 7-6 at half-time, Ulster exploded after the resumption and scored five tries, though the 49th-minute sending-off of Dragons' prop Adam Black proved a turning point for both sides' fortunes.
With Paul Turner's side on the back foot, though still occasionally looking dangerous with ball in hand, Ulster took control up front as the game lost all its shape.
The home side took full advantage with tries from Rory Best, Bryn Cunningham, Isaac Boss, Simon Danielli and Paddy Wallace taking it beyond the Welsh side.
An action-filled opening quarter brought little for either side bar Ceri Sweeney's opening penalty after ten minutes. By that juncture the Dragons could have had two tries after winger Richard Fussell fumbled in the left corner, closely followed by second row Adam Jones failing to hold on to the ball for what seemed a certain touchdown; the score being ruled out by the TMO.
Shortly afterwards, the TMO was consulted again by referee Nigel Owens, and Niall O'Connor's effort in the left corner after a neat reverse pass from Ulster skipper Boss was turned down.
That seemed to revive Ulster's previously flagging fortunes, and a defence-splitting chip from Scotland international Danielli, collected by Cunningham, saw Ulster finally get some decent phases going five minutes before the half-hour.
They moved the ball left and right with Ospreys-bound Tommy Bowe providing the scoring pass for second row Ryan Caldwell which was converted by O'Connor.
The Ulster outside-half and his Dragons counterpart then missed a penalty each before Sweeney did dissect the posts to leave the visitors trailing by a point at the break.
With Black being sent off for kneeing Ulster prop Declan Fitzpatrick nine minutes after the restart, the home side took control for most of the remainder.
The TMO was consulted again for Best's 55th-minute score and from there Ulster made hay. Cunningham's score was followed by Boss scoring under the posts to give Ulster the valuable bonus point.
Danielli then made the left corner after 76 minutes and Wallace completed the rout in injury time before Dragons substitute Phil Dollman grabbed a consolation score in a frantic finish.
Pens: Sweeney 2
Tries: Caldwell, Best, Cunningham, Boss, Danielli, Wallace
Cons: O'Connor 4
Red Card: Black (Dragons) – illegal use of the knee, 49
Ulster: 15 Mark Bartholomeusz, 14 Mark McCrea, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Paul Steinmetz, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Isaac Boss (c), 8 Stephen Ferris, 7 Kieron Dawson, 6 Neil Best, 5 Justin Harrison, 4 Ryan Caldwell, 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Brian Young.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Justin Fitzpatrick, 18 Carlo Del Fava, 19 Matt McCullough, 20 Paul Marshall, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Bryn Cunningham.
Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Gareth Wyatt, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Richard Fussell, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Andy Williams, 8 Michael Owen (c), 7 Richard Parks, 6 Andy Hall, 5 Peter Sidoli, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Lee Harrison, 2 Ben Daly, 1 Adam Black
Replacements: 16 Steve Jones, 17 James Corsi, 18 Gethin Robinson, 19 James Harris, 20 Phillip Dollman, 21 Aled Thomas, 22 Wayne Evans.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch judges: Alan Rogan (Ireland), Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Television match official: Mark Hermin (Ireland)