Ulster hold on to beat Dragons

Date published: November 8 2015

Ulster held on for a nail-biting 19-12 victory over the Dragons in the PRO12, picking up their first win on the road of the season.

The Irishmen's defence was excellent as they edged a closely fought and at times ill-disciplined encounter, thereby earning a rare away win and ending their appalling recent record at the Newport venue.

Paul Marshall's try was complemented by a superb kicking performance from fly-half Paddy Jackson, who landed four penalties and a conversion. 

The Dragons actually started more strongly and led at half-time through three Dorian Jones penalties. 

But Marshall's try turned the tide in the second-half, and the Dragons could only offer a penalty from Jason Tovey in response. It wasn’t enough as Ulster held on and ensured a winning start for incoming Director of Rugby Les Kiss.

An excellent Dragons start was rewarded with a 10 minute penalty when Robbie Diack was penalised for illegally interfering at a ruck. Jones nailed the kick to make it 3-0 to the Welsh outfit. 

The home side dominated possession in the opening few minutes, but were kept at bay by Ulster’s well organised defence; Kiss's influence there for all to see. But the Dragons remained firmly in control, with Welsh international Taulupe Faletau particularly conspicuous.

The hosts cemented their advantage on 16 minutes when Jones slotted another penalty following an infringement by Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey. The Dragons now had a handy 6-0 lead, and McCloskey was dispatched to the sin bin for his transgression. 

The Irishmen's discipline was costing them dearly and Jones made it 9-0 on 20 minutes when winger Sammy Arnold was pinged for illegally playing the ball on the floor. The Dragons were certainly well worth their lead, but Ulster were making life extremely difficult for themselves.

Jackson clawed three points back for the visitors on 26 minutes, though, to make it 9-3. And the Irish fly-half reduced the gap to a mere three points on 34 minutes when he calmly slotted another penalty after Faletau had been caught offside. 

By half-time, the visitors had doggedly dragged themselves back into the game, but the Dragons would have been disappointed they didn't make more of their dominance.

Ulster's cause was helped at the start of the second-half when Dragons' skipper Rynard Landman was sent to the bin, but the Irishmen struggled to make the advantage tell. 

The visitors were awarded several penalties and chose to chase a try rather than take three points. The 14 man Dragons successfully held them out initially, but eventually scrum-half Marshall spotted a gap and darted over to score on 50 minutes. Jackson converted to give the visitors a 13-9 lead.

The Dragons responded well, successfully building phases in the Ulster half. The pressure earned its reward on 62 minutes when Tovey added another penalty after Rory Best was penalised for illegally slowing the ball. The Irish hooker was yellow carded for his efforts.

There was now only a point in it and Ulster had a chance to immediately bag three points of their own when the Dragons' forwards went off their feet en masse at the next breakdown. Jackson missed the kick, though.

The fly-half made amends on 69 minutes when he nailed a long range penalty to make it 16-12 to the Irishmen. And the Ulster pivot extended the lead to seven on 72 minutes with another monster effort that belied the difficult conditions. 

The Irish province looked to have done enough, but a seven point lead is always a slender one to protect. And the Dragons seemed to have sneaked a draw when skipper Landman barged over on 78 minutes. Sadly for the Welsh region, the TMO decreed that the second row had been held up short.

The Dragons besieged the Ulster line for the final couple of minutes, but the visitors' defence proved outstanding. Ulster held on then to seal a welcome, if unexpected, win.

The scorers:

For Dragons:
Pen: Jones 3, Tovey

For Ulster:
Try: P Marshall
Con: Jackson
Pen: Jackson 4

Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Ed Jackson, 5 Rynard Landman (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Phil Price, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Lewis Evans, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Ross Wardle.

Ulster: 15 Peter Nelson, 14 Rory Scholes, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Sammy Arnold, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Stephen Mulholland, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Kyle McCall.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Ricky Lutton, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Craig Gilroy.

Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)

by Rory McGimpsey