Ulster could only return from Wales on Saturday morning with a losing bonus point after a disappointing performance saw them lose their PRO12 opener at Rodney Park, 15-8 to the Dragons.
It was a deserved win for the Dragons over what was a disjointed display from Mark Anscombe’s side.
A Roger Wilson try and a penalty from Paddy Jackson saw Ulster lead 8-6 at the end of an error-strewn first half.
Jason Tovey landed a drop goal and a penalty, and followed that up with three penalties in the second period.
A morale-boosting start for the Dragons then while for Ulster, it is the first time in four seasons that they have failed to win their opening game.
The Dragons took the lead inside nine minutes when number ten Jason Tovey, starting his first league game since returning from Cardiff Blues, produced a booming drop-goal from all of forty metres to open the account for the season.
Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson replied in kind from 25 metres to level matters before another mistake by captain Johann Muller’s men saw Tovey kick his first penalty from 45 metres.
That sparked the visitors into real life as the pack got offended by the home side and took it upon themselves to dominate up front. Loose-head Callum Black had Dragons tight-head Dan Way in a pickle.
And it was from a penalty won by the pack on the Welshmen’s 22 that Jackson went for touch and an attacking line-out. Muller leapt, won the ball five metres from the line and, with the drive on, Ulster were not going to be denied with number eight Roger Wilson at the base of the pile of bodies over the line.
Jackson failed to convert and missed a couple of other shots at goal as a game that was getting lively began to lose its’ way in midfield. Maybe it was just early season rustiness but it did not help that Ulster’s mistakes - handling and in other areas - frustrated them as well.
Ulster caused the Welshmen problems after the break and had chances to get a second try which could possibly have lit the touchpaper. However, they gave away three more penalties that Tovey landed and found themselves a converted try down.
But the biggest moment of the match came in the last ten minutes when the Ulster pack drove manfully to get the score they needed but were denied by some amazing defence. Time and again, Muller and his men came within inches of placing the ball on the line but it just would not happen.
n Defending champions Leinster came from behind to claim a bonus point 42-19 victory over the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets.
Five tries from prop Martin Moore, number eight Jordy Murphy, replacement Darren Hudson, Dave Kearney and outside-half Jimmy Gopperth, who supplied a total of 22 points, saw Leinster recover from being 13-0 down.
For the Scarlets centre Steven Shingler provided 14 points with their one try coming from captain Rob McCusker.
n Glasgow squeaked home in their RaboDirect PRO12 opener, in a game which was shaped by the sodden conditions - however, a young Cardiff side will draw confidence from a resilient performance.
Glasgow rallied when they were losing 19-15 early in the third quarter thanks to an outstanding try from Tommy Seymour.
That score was converted by Ruaridh Jackson, who added a penalty. Earlier penalties were kicked by Scott Wight (2) and Mark Bennett (2).