DRAGONS CRUISE PAST ULSTER
By David Wilkinson
Newport Gwent Dragons made it two wins from two at the new-look Rodney Parade with a convincing victory over Irish province Ulster.
Despite falling behind to an early Paddy Jackson penalty it was the Dragons who dominated to earn a 16-9 half time lead, thanks to a Tom Riley try and a faultless kicking display from Jason Tovey.
Both sides were guilty of making errors in a scrappy second half in which there were just two further scores, a penalty apiece for Tovey and Jackson. Ulster did show signs of improvement but the Dragons were able to close out the game and claim a well deserved victory.
Ulster opened the scoring through the boot of Paddy Jackson with just three minutes on the clock, however, it was the Dragons who started to dominate proceedings and were level soon after thanks to a Jason Tovey penalty.
Making his Dragons debut was South Africa capped speedster Tonderal Chavhaga who soon gave fans a glimpse of the pace which earned him the reputation as the fastest man in rugby.
The flying wing collected a kick just inside his 22 and brushed off a would-be Ulster tackler before producing a scorching run, his attempted chip and chase was unsuccessful but the Rodney Parade faithful were thrilled with what they had seen.
Immediately after the debutant’s moment of magic the Dragons were in the lead thanks to Jason Tovey who slotted over another penalty.
With the bit between their teeth the Dragons upped the pressure as Ulster centre Nevin Spence was shown yellow for his second high tackle of the game.
Rather than going for goal with the resulting penalty, Tovey went for touch as the Dragons looked to capitalise on their numerical advantage.
This adventure was rewarded, following good work by the forwards at the lineout, Tovey exploited the overlap with a lovely floated pass to Tom Riley who found a gap in midfield and raced to the line.
Jackson had a chance to close the gap but the flyhalf was unsuccessful with his penalty attempt before Tovey once again showed his rival how to do it as he coolly slotted another three points.
Jackson was able to make amends for earlier misses with a second penalty, but Tovey cancelled it out on the stroke of half time to send the Dragons into the break with a 19-6 lead.
As the second half got underway Ulster looked to improve on their poor first half display but found it tough going against a solid Dragons’ defence. The Dragons weathered an early storm and saw Tovey further extend the lead as he slotted another penalty but were unable to pull away from the visitors as Jackson was successful with a third penalty.
The Dragons went in search of a second try to kill off the game but found the visitors a much tougher proposition in the second half. Tovey was unable to maintain his 100 per cent kicking record as he saw a penalty attempt hit the post.
As the game entered the final stages Ulster turned up the heat on the home-side and Ian Witten thought he had grabbed a try to keep his side’s feint hopes of an unlikely win alive but the wing was adjudged to have touched the whitewash in the process of scoring.
In the last few minutes Ulster looked to attack from deep but were unable to breach an organised and committed Dragons’ defence and referee Neil Patterson blew the whistle to hand the Dragons a deserved victory over the Belfast-based opponents.
Dragons (19) 22
Try: Riley Con: Tovey Pens: Tovey 5
Ulster (6) 9
Pens: Jackson 3
Newport-Gwent Dragons: M. Thomas, Chavhanga, Riley, A. Smith, Poole, Tovey, W. Evans, N. Williams, Willis, Buck, A. Jones, Sidoli, L. Evans, G. Thomas, Coombs.
Replacements: Waters for M. Thomas (65), M. Jones for A. Smith (70), Bedford for W. Evans (61), Buckley for Willis (61), Jenkins for A. Jones (73), Groves for L. Evans (56), O'Driscoll for G. Thomas (65).
Not Used: Price.
Ulster: D'Arcy, Gilroy, Spence, L. Marshall, Whitten, Jackson, P. Marshall, Fitzpatrick, Brady, Cronin, Stevenson, Tuohy, Wannenburg, Faloon, Henry.
Replacements: Gaston for D'Arcy (65), Porter for P. Marshall (47), Barker for Stevenson (52), Diack for Faloon (53).
Not Used: Kyriacou, McCall, Macklin, McKinney.
Ref: Neil Patterson (RFU).