A late Dragons fightback ensured they left the Principality Stadium with a losing bonus point after suffering a 22-26 defeat to Irish opposition Ulster.
A try from Ollie Griffiths and two late scores from wingers Rio Dyer and Jonah Holmes wasn’t enough for the Dragons to take the victory in Cardiff but they do leave with a losing bonus point.
Ulster secured a bonus point victory in Wales with tries from scrum half Alby Mathewson, hooker John Andrew and a brace from centre Stewart Moore plus six points from the boot of Man of the Match Mike Lowry earning them victory in a physical Guinness PRO14 encounter.
Dragons will be pleased with the majority of their performance heading into next week’s home fixture against Glasgow at the Principality Stadium but will rue their failure to finish their opportunities in the Ulster 22m throughout the game.
While Ulster travel back to Ireland with five points in the bag keeping them in contention at the top of Conference A ahead of their next fixture against Italian outfit Zebre.
The Dragons started the brightest out of both sides showing plenty of promise in the opening stages with fly half Davies missing the opportunity to give Dragons an early lead, his kick just drifting wide.
But it was the away side who drew first blood with scrum half Alby Mathewson going over the whitewash following a brilliant scything run by fullback Jacob Stockdale and Lowry added the extras to give the away side a 0-7 lead.
Ulster managed to double their lead after 20 minutes, centre Stewart Moore going over for his first of the game after a fantastic offload from centre partner Stuart McCloskey, Lowry added the extras.
Dragons outside half Davies did manage to get the home side on the scoreboard, with a deserved three points off the tee just after the half hour mark.
It was the home side who finished the half strongly and crossed the line twice but unfortunately Ulster’s defence managed to hold the ball up on both occasions and head into half time with a flattering 3-14 lead.
Ulster begun the second half with 14 men after John Andrew was sin-binned just before half time in the away side’s defensive effort. But it wasn’t long till it was 14 a piece with Harrison Keddie sent to the bin not long after the re-start.
Ulster scored their third of the game through hooker Andrew who peeled away from the Ulster driving maul to barge over. The flags stayed down on the conversion attempt this time with scores at 3-19 with half hour to go.
Dragons replied with a try of their own, returning number eight Griffiths, his first appearance since his injury against Wasps in December, powering his way over from close range. Davies converted the two.
Dragons were looking to score again with a bright attack in the Ulster 22m, which you could say was the story of the game, but centre Moore managed to intercept and race in for his second try of the game from 60m out. Lowry landed the conversion to make the score 10-26 heading into the last twenty minutes.
But the Dragons never gave up and after another Ulster Yellow card for Nick Timoney they managed to make the extra man count with winger Rio Dyer scoring in the corner on his first start of the season. Davies missed the conversion.
The home side didn’t end it there with replacement Nick Tompkins managing an intercept of his own to send Holmes under the posts continuing his try scoring run. Josh Lewis quickly added two points to ensure a nervous end to the game.
But it wasn’t to be for the Dragons as Ulster managed to see out the remaining three minutes and leave with a bonus point victory, while Dean Ryan’s men managed to secure a losing bonus point to ensure they didn’t leave empty handed at the Principality Stadium.
13m Mathewson t Lowry 3 0-7
20m Moore t Lowry c 0-14
34m Davies p 3-14
49m Andrew t 3-19
55m Griffiths t Davies c 10-19
61m Moore t Lowry c 10-26
72m Dyer t 15-26
77m Holmes t Lewis c 22-26
Dragons: Josh Lewis, Jonah Holmes, Aneurin Owen (Tompkins 51), Jamie Roberts, Rio Dyer, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Bertranou 59), Brok Harris (Reynolds 59), Richard Hibbard, Lloyd Fairbrother (Jarvis 66), Joe Davies (Screech 51), Joe Maksymiw (Carter 55), Harrison Keddie, Ben Fry (Baker 51 (Lawrence 77)), Ollie Griffiths
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Josh Reynolds, Aaron Jarvis, Matthew Screech, Ben Carter, Dan Baker, Gonzalo Bertranou, Nick Tompkins
Ulster: Jacob Stockdale, Craig Gilroy, Stewart Moore, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, Alby Mathewson; Eric O'Sullivan, John Andrew, Ross Kane, Alan O'Connor, Kieran Treadwell, David McCann, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Gareth Milasinovich, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy