ULSTER 38 DRAGONS 8
A two-try blitz from Tommy Bowe helped Ulster on their way to a comfortable bonus point win at Ravenhill on Friday night.
British Lion Bowe scored tries in the 24th and 26th minutes to aid Ulster on their way to a bonus-point first half display which keeps them in third place.
It was Bowe’s first game back after suffering an injury with Ireland at the end of November against New Zealand.
Ulster started strongly and an early penalty saw scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar convert to make it 3-0 after a minute’s play.
The home side were direct and played with a high tempo moving the ball from side to side.
In the seventh minute a neat backline movement, with centre Darren Cave showing quick hands almost put the returning Tommy Bowe through for a try, but the British Lion wing shows a bit of rustiness from a three month lay-off and dropped the pass.
On the 14th minute Jared Payne fielded a high ball deep in his own half and fired out a looping pass to Cave. He made good ground before giving inside to Pienaar and the South African international halfback charged over for a try.
Outhalf Paddy Jackson – likely to start against Italy for Ireland in the Six Nations next week – landed the conversion for a 10-0 advantage.
Bowe then made amends for his earlier missed opportunity by scoring two tries in as many minutes.
The first, on 24 minutes, came from an Ulster lineout, ball was tapped down, Pienaar took and raced towards the tail, reverse passing back inside to Bowe, who raced clear.
A minute after Jackson had landed the extras, he turned provider by slipping a pass to Bowe and he raced in close to the posts, leaving his outhalf with a simple kick to make it 24-0.
Two collapsed scrums on the Dragons line saw loosehead prop, Owen Evans sent to the bin, and from the scrum option again, Ulster put the squeeze on. The scrum went down and referee Lloyd Linton ran straight to the posts indicating the penalty try.
Jackson added the extras to the bonus point securing score to make it 31-0 after 33 minutes.
The Dragons finally got some territory and possession, although fullback Rhys Jones must have thought it was going to be one of those nights when a long range penalty rebounded off a post.
However, just on half time Jones did open the Welsh side’s account with a close range penalty.
Payne and Scholes came agonisingly close to scoring early in the second half, but loose forward, Sean Doyle, went over out wide, and Jackson made if five from five conversions and a 38-3 lead.
The one-way traffic continued, with McIlwaine, who replaced Bowe as expected at half time, going over, but the pass from Payne was deemed forward on review.
Dragons finally breached the home rearguard – although by that stage Ulster had used all their bench and players were out of position.
Dragons winger Ross Bradley finished a backline movement well for an unconverted try on 63 minutes – the last score of the evening.
ULSTER: Jared Payne; Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Rory Scholes; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Ricky Lutton, Johann Muller (UCD), Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle, Roger Wilson.
Replacements: Niall Annett (Herring 72), Tom Court (Black 61), Adam Macklin (67), Lewis Stevenson (Pienaaar 71), Mike McComish (Jackson 62), Paul Marshall (Scholes 54), Stuart McCloskey (L Marshall 20), David McIlwaine (Bowe HT)
Tries: Bowe (2), Pienaar, Doyle, penalty
Cons: Jackson (5)
DRAGONS: Rhys Jones, Matthew Pewtner, Lat Leach, Ashley Smith (capt), Ross Wardle, Steffan Jones, Richie Rees; Owen Evans, Rhys Thomas, Bruce Douglas, Matthew Screech, Cory Hill, Jevon Groves, Nic Cudd, Lewis Evans
Replacements (all used): Nathan Williams, Hugh Gustafson, Duncan Bell, Rob Sidoli, Ieuan Jones, Wayne Evans, Lewis Robling, Jack Dixon.
Pen: R Jones
Sin-bin: Owen Evans
Ref: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
News Letter man of the match: Bowe
Att: 12, 960