Planet Rugby

Four-try Ulster go top

12th April 2013 21:03

Share:

Ulster marched to the top of the PRO12 standings on Friday with a dominant 31-5 victory over the Dragons at Ravenhill.

Following the season-defining reverse at the hands of Saracens last weekend, the encounter represented an opportunity for a demoralised Ulster to salvage their domestic season. For the lowly Dragons, meanwhile, the game signified a chance to regain some pride from what has been a disappointing campaign thus far. For the restored Tommy Bowe in particular, this was part of a last-gasp mission to secure a coveted place on the Lions' plane to Australia.

As it was, Ulster got off to the worst start imaginable. Paul Marshall badly misjudged a box kick in the first minute that went out on the full. From the ensuing line-out, the hosts conceded a penalty but Tom Prydie was off target with his kick.

The visitors' back row drove superbly around the fringes in the opening skirmishes, with Welsh international Toby Faletau particularly prominent. It was the visitors, assuredly, who made the better start.

Rookie Ulster tighthead Ricky Lutton, moreover, was under acute pressure from the Dragons' Aaron Coundley. As the half progressed, Pienaar began to get his backline moving, with the hosts displaying some crisp passing in midfield.

The South African fly-half also mixed his game up with some deft kicking. A combination of handling errors, and stoic Dragons' defence disrupted the hosts' continuity, though.

The game opened up on 23 minutes, however, when an incisive break from Marshall in the visiting 22 unleashed Bowe to score in the right-hand corner. Pienaar converted to give his side a 7-0 advantage.

Dragons impressive start dissipated further on 28 minutes when Sam Parry conceded a penalty for hands in the ruck. The concession proved even more costly when Dan Evans was subsequently yellow-carded for dissent. Pienaar duly added the three points.

The hosts made the hitherto impressive Dragons suffer further when Olding squeezed over on 34 minutes in the left, as the 14 men struggled to plug the gaps. Pienaar again converted. Darren Cave compounded the visitors' misery when he danced through to touch down on 37 minutes. Ulster were now 24-0 to the good.

Ulster commenced the second half in similar fashion, pummelling the Dragons 22 through the behemoth, Nick Williams. Their ascendancy was copper-fastened on 44 minutes, when Marshall evaded the Dragons cover to score. Pienaar nailed the conversion to make it 31-0.

Man-of-the-match Olding nearly jigged his way through on 52 minutes, but was whistled back for a knock on. With the Dragons replacing both props, Ulster's scrum was utterly dominant, and the visitors' pack began to look somewhat beleaguered.

Indeed it was only Ulster's own errors that prevented them from amassing a cricket score. Although the raft of substitutions undoubtedly disrupted the rhythm of the match, the Dragons' defence was immeasurably better in the second period.

Ulster continued to keep the Dragons pegged in their own half through the twin boots of Pienaar and Marshall.

But Dragons were not finished. Prydie finished off a neat passage on 68 minutes, following some terrific counter-attacking. But Ulster resolutely closed out the game.

Although his team's resistance will have heartened Dragons coach Edwards, this loss cements their place as second from bottom of the Pro12. For Ulster, this thoroughly decent victory propels them back to the league summit, and keeps the side on course for a home semi-final.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Tries: Bowe, Olding, Cave, Marshall
Cons: Pienaar 4
Pen: Pienaar

For Dragons:
Tries: Prydie
Yellow card: Evans

Ulster: 15 Peter Nelson, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Mike McComish, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Ali Birch, 21 Niall O'Connor, 22 Mike Allen, 23 Adam D'Arcy.

Dragons: 15 Tom Prydie, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ross Wardle, 10 Dan Evans, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Darren Waters, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Andrew Coombs (c), 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Aaron Coundley.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Dan Way, 19 Adam Jones, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Steffan Jones, 23 Andy Tuilagi.

Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Gary Conway (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

By Rory McGimpsey

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
Sunday , September 7
London Welsh vs Exeter14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues17:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki 41 - 3 Bay Of PlentyTaranaki vs Bay Of Plenty Report
Auckland 16 - 16 TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00