Ulster moved top of the Guinness PRO12 standings after outhalf Paddy Jackson landed a late penalty to earn a narrow 17-15 win over Newport Gwent Dragons.
Jackson – who missed the Irish cut for Sunday’s Six Nations opener against Wales – returned to his club and showed his true professionalism to slot over a penalty which secured a hard-earned victory over the stubborn Welsh side.
Tries from Adam Hughes and Carl Meyer had given the Dragons a 15-7 lead after 47 minutes, with Sean Reidy having replied for Ulster in the first half.
A penalty try with Jackson’s conversion had Ulster right back in the hunt at 14-15.
Ulster failed to capitalise when the Dragons had two men in the sin-bin for six minutes and when Jackson saw a long range penalty bounce off the crossbar eight minutes from the end it looked as though an opportunity was spurned.
But the outhalf got another chance near the death and made no mistake.
The reluctant hero said: “I knew from the one which hit the crossbar that I had the accuracy and when the second one came I just had to go through the routine and I knew I had hit it sweetly.
“I was happy to come back into the team and play my part in the win. That was a massive one for us tonight even if it was a bit of a strange second half,” he added.
Ulster director of rugby, Les Kiss, added: “I think it is important to look at where we are now and taking nine points from the last two games.
“We are top of the ladder, and I am extremely happy with that. This time of year you have to put those things together and it is good to get the returns.
“The Dragons deserve plenty of credit, but so do our guys.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to tough it out in these types of games and we did that.”