Ulster 25 Dragons 23
Ulster were nearly left with red faces on Red Nose day as they struggled to contain a battling Dragons side. Ruan Pienaar saved the day with a last minute drop goal keeping Ulster’s challenge for a top four Magners League finish alive!
In truth the Welsh side probably deserved to win this game having dominated most of the second half but Ulster can take a great deal of comfort in the performance of their youngsters and with the ability of the team to close out yet another close encounter of the Welsh kind!
Ulster started the game well with the youthful backline looking to move the ball at every opportunity. Dungannon’s Conor Gaston particularly impressed looking to the manor born and the youngster grew in confidence as the game went on.
Ulster went ahead after eight minutes when Nevin Spence collected a pass from Luke Marshall and burst through for a try with Pienaar converting for a 7 – 0 lead. Unfortunately Ulster let Dragons in for an easy try after D’Arcy failed to collect a speculative kick through. Tovey failed to convert his score leaving the score 7 – 5.
Luckily enough the Dragons had a miserable night with their kicks and Ulster went further ahead after 25 minutes with Pienaar adding a penalty to put Ulster five in front. Ulster pushed hard for another score before teh break but the Welsh defence held on without too much discomfort.
The Dragons started the second half strongly and bagged two tries in the third quarter with first Evans and then the ever popular Brew crossing. Tovey converted the first and Ulster looked in disarray with the score reading 10 – 17.
However Ulster managed to capitalise on their limited possession and replacement Seymour did well to find the line on the 64th minute after a break from Pedrie Wannenburg.
Pienaar missed the conversion to tie the game and the Dragons opened up a five point lead with a penalty moving the score to 15 -20.
As the clock ticked down Ulster held their nerve and a great break from Gaston put Cave through for a try which Pienaar converted to give Ulster a two point lead and it looked as though Ulster had snatched the game – however there were still a few twists to come.
The Dragons worked their way straight back up field and thought they had won it when Tovey slotted a drop goal with a minute left.
However, the drama continued as Ulster moved the ball to under the posts on the stroke of full time and Pienaar found the composure to send over a drop goal with the last kick off the game to send the home fans home happy!
The win moved Ulster to fourth place in the Magners League but more important was the performance of the youngsters with Patrick Jackson, Conor Gaston, Luke Marshall, Tommy Seymour, Craig Gilroy and Nevin Spence all making strong contributions.
Diack looked to have recovered some of his pre-season form before he was replaced by Wannenburg and Cave and Tuohy slotted in as though they hadn’t been away, with young veteran Darren showing his class for his score.
Ulster: (15-9): Adam D’Arcy; Conor Gaston, Nevin Spence, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Patrick Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; (1-8): Paddy McAllister, Andi Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Tim Barker, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack. (16-23): Nigel Brady, Bryan Young, Jerry Cronin, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Paul Marshall, Darren Cave, Tommy Seymour