A patchy performance was enough for Ulster to seal the bonus point win and move into third spot in Conference B ahead of Edinburgh who lost to Zebre tonight.
Stuart McCloskey grabbed a brace of tries while Henry Speight opened the scoring. Dave Shanahan and Michael Lowry added the other scores.
Ulster made a confident start and left their first entry into the Dragons’ 22 with three points thanks to the boot of Johnny McPhillips. Henry Speight scored the first try just after the ten minute mark. A deliberate slap down fell fortunately for McPhillips leaving a two-on-one and a simple fix and give allowed Speight an easy walk-in.
The scrum woes continued and Jason Tovey knocked over a penalty after a wobbly Ulster set piece. Ulster began to force the game in the second quarter where a bit of composure would have seen a second try scored. But it did come through a moment of brilliance from Will Addison. The former Sale player ghosted through the Dragons defence and offloaded to Dave Shanahan.
The Dragons struck back through Huw Taylor in a disappointing try to concede from an Ulster point of view. Marcell Coetzee missed a tackle which allowed Adam Warren to make the line break before Addison missed the crucial tackle and Ulster could not recover. The Dragons dominated the ten minutes before half time and Ulster’s discipline gave them field position. Jason Tovey narrowed the deficit to four points.
Michael Lowry scored Ulster’s third try a minute before the break. Iain Henderson showed great footwork to start the move while Lowry’s dazzling feet a couple of phases later confused the defence and opened up the space for the third try.
Ulster kicked on in the second half. Stuart McCloskey scored the fourth try shortly before 50 minutes. With that try, the Ireland players began to filter off the pitch, as well as an injured Michael Lowry. The game became more disjointed and the lineout deteriorated.
Like at the end of the first half, the Dragons grew into the game and crossed for their second try with 13 minutes left. Jarryd Sage bulldozed his way over the line after a scrum inside seven metres from the Ulster line.
However the result was secured with a minute and a half left on the clock. Kieran Treadwell made a break and showed good pace to get away from the defenders and a pop pass allowed Stuart McCloskey to score his second try.
That’s Ulster’s first try bonus point win this season, but there are still cracks that need to be worked on, namely the set piece. Looking at the positives, Ulster’s expansive game really hurt the Dragons tonight and there were plenty of players that put their hands up to start for Ulster during the internationals.
Next up is a potential banana skin away trip to Benetton Rugby.