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Bowe lights up Ulster triumph

28th February 2014 20:59

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SKY_MOBILE Tommy Bowe Ulster

Brace on return: Tommy Bowe

Fit-again Ireland winger Tommy Bowe bagged a first-half brace of tries in a comfortable 38-8 win for Ulster over the Dragons.

Bowe's double gave Joe Schmidt food for thought in a comprehensive victory for the Irish province.

Ruan Pienaar and Sean Doyle also got over the whitewash for the hosts, with Paddy Jackson enjoying a prodigious evening with the boot.

The Newport-based side responded through a well-taken effort from Ross Wardle, but were unable to match the intensity and application of their opponents. The victory ensures the Irishmen stay in the hunt for a play-off place.

It was Ulster that made the brighter start, spreading the ball wide to stretch the Dragons' defence. And they earned their reward on two minutes when Pienaar slotted a lovely penalty to give the hosts a 3-0 advantage.

On a beautiful evening for rugby, the home side put together some neat, intricate phases. The passing looked slick and sharp, with the intensity markedly increased from last week's efforts in Treviso.

Only handling errors and last-ditch Dragons' defence stemmed the Ulster tide in the opening ten minutes. And the home side sliced the Welsh defence in two when Darren Cave put Pienaar away under the posts on the 15-minute mark.

Irish fly-half Jackson converted to make it 10-0 to the Ravenhill outfit. The contest was fairly one-sided at this stage, albeit with the Welshmen defending stoutly. But the hosts were dealt an unwelcome blow on the 20-minute mark when international centre Luke Marshall was helped off the park injured.

The returning Bowe lifted their spirits on 24 minutes when he gathered a nice switch from Pienaar, and duly won the race for the line.

Jackson converted the effort to make it a healthy 17-0 to the home side. And the Irish winger got on the score sheet again two minutes later when he danced through the Dragons' cover to score - Jackson again added the extras.

The Dragons scrum was also looking in all sorts of trouble for a significant part of the half, and loosehead Owen Evans was yellow carded on 33 minutes for repeated infringements. Thus the inevitable penalty try followed, as the visitors were unable to cope with Ulster's numerical advantage.

The unfortunate visitors did not end the half any stronger for their efforts and didn't look like threatening the Ulster try line. But Jones did break the visitors' duck on the stroke of half-time to get his side on the scoreboard. All in all, though, it was a pretty bleak half for the Welsh region.

Ulster resumed after the interval where they left off in the first period, driving purposefully at the Dragons' rearguard. Indeed Jared Payne was unlucky not to add to the tally on 46 minutes when he was put away in the left corner, but the full-back just didn't have the gas to evade the Dragons' cover.

They didn't waste much time though thereafter, when openside Sean Doyle finished off some neat handling to score. Jackson produced the extra two to make it an incredible 38-3 to the hosts. The visitors seemed to have a veritable mountain to climb in order to regain a foothold in the game.

The Belfast side were virtually camped in the opposing 22, and were dominating territory and possession. This concerted pressure nearly paid dividends on 56 minutes when Payne put replacement David McIlwaine over in the right hand corner, but the TMO deemed his pass to be forward.

Dragons' wing Wardle reduced the arrears when he touched down on 63 minutes, but Jones missed the resultant conversion to leave the score at 38-8.

A raft of replacements did not aid Ulster's seemingly insuperable momentum. Injuries left the hosts somewhat bereft of numbers, as illustrated by back-rower Mike McComish replacing Jackson, prompting a re-jig in the hosts' back line. Payne, nominally a centre, filling in at out-half further highlighted Ulster's predicament.

Such disruption inevitably affected the flow of the game, but in truth did little to compromise Ulster's dominance. The Irish province thus held on to secure an essential and impressive win that will certainly do no harm to Bowe's Six Nations prospects.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Tries: Pienaar, Bowe 2, Penalty Try, Doyle
Cons: Jackson 5
Pen: Pienaar

For Dragons:
Try: Wardle
Pen: R Jones
Yellow Card: O Evans

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Stuart McCloskey, 23 David McIlwaine.

Dragons: 15 Rhys Jones, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith (c), 11 Ross Wardle, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Bruce Douglas, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Williams, 17 Hugh Gustafson, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Jack Dixon.

Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Johan Carvill (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Assessor: Jack Young (Ireland)

by Rory McGimpsey
@RoryMcGimpsey

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