Ulster left the Principality Stadium with all five points after running four tries past the Dragons in what was a fairly ill-disciplined game.
Stewart Moore recorded a brace with further scores from Alby Mathewson and John Andrew.
The Dragons were allowed to dominate possession (59%) and territory (62%) thanks to the 17 penalties Ulster conceded last night. Admittedly I did think there were a few penalties called that were harsh against Ulster.
Dragons (3) 22
TRY: Ollie Griffiths, Rio Dyer, Jonah Holmes
CON: Sam Davies, Josh Lewis
PEN: Sam Davies
Ulster (14) 26
TRY: Alby Mathewson, Stewart Moore (2), John Andrew
CON: Michael Lowry (3)
Three penalties in the opening six minutes ensured Ulster started on the back foot, but they were the first on the board after a scything run from Jacob Stockdale through the heart of the home side’s defence allowing Mathewson to cross for his first try in an Ulster shirt. This was Ulster’s first foray into the opposition 22.
The second entry into the 22 ended when Moore was sent over the line after a great offload by Stuart McCloskey. With a quarter of the game gone, Ulster had scored two tries from two chances, spending less than 30 seconds in the opposition 22 in doing so.
Defensively I thought Ulster were solid as they limited the home side to just two clean breaks, which came in the same move, and resulted in their final try scored by Jonah Holmes. When Andrew was sin binned at the end of the first half, Ulster were able to see out the last couple of minutes without their try line being breached.
After he returned from his time on the sidelines, Andrew rumbled over for his sixth try of the season nine minutes into the second half. Dragons finally breached the Ulster line six minutes later when Ollie Griffiths crossed from close range.
Moore scored the bonus point try after successfully reading a pass from Sam Davies before Rio Dyer and Holmes scored to provide the Dragons with a bonus point that they probably deserved and could be crucial in their hopes to qualify for the Champions Cup next season.
Dragons: Josh Lewis, Jonah Holmes, Aneurin Owen, Jamie Roberts, Rio Dyer, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joseph Davies, Joe Maksymiw, Harrison Keddie, Ben Fry, Ollie Griffiths. Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Josh Reynolds, Aaron Jarvis, Matthew Screech, Ben Carter, Dan Baker, Gonzalo Bertranou, Nick Tompkins
Ulster: Jacob Stockdale, Craig Gilroy, Stewart Moore, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, Alby Mathewson; Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Ross Kane, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, David McCann, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney. Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Gareth Milasinovich, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matthew Rea, Dave Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.
Where now for Ulster?
For Ulster, this match was merely a tick box exercise. Nothing was at stake so it was a chance to give game time to players who hadn’t featured much this season. Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Ross Kane and David McCann all had less than 200 minutes of action this season but were afforded at least 20 minutes of game time on the pitch this night.
Michael Lowry was awarded POTM in what was only his third start in the ten jersey while Nick Timoney was a threat over the ball for Ulster. McCloskey also put in another good performance while Stockdale showed why he’s a very good option to have in the 15 shirt.
In the final Guinness PRO14 match Ulster welcome Zebre to Ravenhill where I think there will be further rotation made to the team. It’s important that Ulster get through this match with no further injuries as the Challenge Cup match v Harlequins is looming.