Pienaar shines as Ulster's run continues
RABODIRECT PRO12 Dragons 19 Ulster 46:RUAN PIENAAR racked up 21-points as Ulster continued their unbeaten start to the season with an emphatic six-try bonus-point victory over Newport Gwent Dragons in south Wales.
The visitors led by three points at the break following tries from Tom Court, Nick Williams and Pienaar. And they secured the bonus-point following the interval with further touchdowns from Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne.
Mark Anscombe rang the changes for the clash at Rodney Parade with Paul Marshall and Pienaar partnering each other at half-back. And the duo steered Ulster home as they firmed up their place at the top of the PRO12 table and remain the only top level team in Europe to boast a 100 per cent record this season.
Tom Prydie gave the hosts the lead with a brace of early penalties but Ulster quickly hit-back thanks to Court. Pienaar created the opening with a half-break from just inside the 22. He flung an ambitious offload inside and the Ireland prop showed a great pair of hands at pace to pick the ball off his shoelaces and score. Pienaar added the extras to put Ulster in front for the first time.
The Dragons rallied and restored their lead following a sustained period of pressure mid-way through the half. Ulster absorbed 15 phases before Tuilagi hit a crash ball and bundled through Pienaar and Rory Best.
Prydie converted but the Dragons’ lead was short lived as Ulster came storming back as Williams swatted off two Dragons defenders to dive over.
Prydie momentarily kicked the Dragons’ noses back in front but Pienaar pounced for a crucial opportunist try less than five minutes before the interval.
The South Africa star grubbered through and blocked Prydie’s clearance to hand Ulster a three point advantage.
Pienaar stretched his side’s lead after the Dragons were penalised at the breakdown inside 10 seconds of the restart and he continued to turn pressure into points.
The Dragons responded through Prydie but Cave wrapped up the bonus-point and put the result beyond doubt shortly before the hour mark with Pienaar converting.
And Ulster grabbed a quick-fire second as Trimble picked off Lewis Robling’s pass to canter home before Payne rubbed salt into the home side’s wounds with a try at the death.
DRAGONS: T Prydie; W Harries, A Hughes, A Tuilagi, T Chavhanga; L Robling, J Evans; O Evans, S Jones (capt), N Buck; A Jones , R Sidoli; T Brown, J Groves, T Faletau. Replacements: N Cudd for Faletau (45 mins), N Williams for Evans (48 mins), S Parry for S Jones and I Nimmo for A Jones (both 54 mins), S Jones for Robling (62 mins), D Way for Buck and L Davies for Evans (both 66 mins), P Leach for Tuilagi (72 mins).
ULSTER: T Bowe; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; R Pienaar, P Marshall; T Court, R Best, D Fitzpatrick; L Stevenson, D Tuohy; I Henderson, C Henry (capt), N Williams. Replacements: R Wilson for Willliams (53 mins), J Afoa for Fitzpatrick and L Marshall for Wallace (both 56 mins), M McComish for Tuohy (62 mins), P Jackson for P Marshall and J Payne for Cave (both 65 mins.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon(IRFU).