Head coach Jono Gibbes admitted Ulster’s set piece had let them down as they salvaged a draw at Rodney Park against Dragons in the Guinness PRO14 last night.
For the third consecutive match Ulster needed a last gasp score to finally put their opponents to the sword.
And last night they allowed leads of 8-0 and 27-15 slip away before rallying to score a try two minutes into additional time.
Even then Ulster should have won the game, outhalf Christiano Leali’ifano missing the kickable conversion to leave the scores tied at 32-32 and three points each for the teams.
Wing Ashton Hewitt scored two tries for the Dragons, with lock Matthew Screech and hooker Liam Belcher also touching down before full-back O’Brien’s score. Fly-half Gavin Henson kicked a penalty and two conversions.
Three-quarter Craig Gilroy scored twice for Ulster, with scrum-half Paul Marshall also crossing. The referee also awarded a penalty try while Leali’ifano kicked a penalty and a conversion but was crucially off target at the death.
Gibbes said while the game had changed in many ways over the years a few principles remained the same and one of those was the set piece.
“We had opportunities to close the door on the Dragons bur unfortunately we left the door open with either a malfunctioning lineout, which gave them access to score two lineout drive tries which is absolutely unacceptable. Yes excellent execution by them, but for us it is not good enough
“And then when we needed the scrum to be stable or we needed to deny them a way out of their half we did not function.
“So for all the way in the world rugby has gone modern there are still some basic things you got to respect and unfortunately throughout the course of the 80 we were second best in key moments.”