Ulster hit Pro12 summit after Paddy Jackson rescue mission

Les Kiss springs outhalf and McCloskey from bench to rouse lacklustre home side

Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale is tackled by Dragons’ Angus O’Brien during the Guinness Pro12 at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho/Presseye

Ulster 17 Dragons 15

At least the sense of injustice north of the Border at the exclusion of both Stuart McCloskey and Paddy Jackson from Joe Schmidt's plans was partly assuaged by Ulster going top of the Pro12 but this was all about them managing a great escape courtesy of Paddy Jackson's 77th minute penalty.

Jackson and McCloskey – the latter a late addition for this game – were sprung from Ulster’s bench at half-time, though until the outhalf’s late kick Les Kiss’s side looked in deep trouble.

Indeed, Jackson's kick put them in the lead for the first time in what had been a scrappy game which had seen the home side fail to score at all when the Dragons were down to 13 men having had Matthew Screech and Ben White sin-binned.


It looked costly and they very nearly witnessed a straightforward win slip through their fingers. However, Jackson – who had seen an earlier shot at goal rebound off the bar – just about get them there.

The first half was a fairly scrappy affair with the Dragons coming out of the blocks early with a wonderfully worked try from centre Adam Hughes, which was converted by Angus O’Brien, who had earlier kicked a penalty.

They led 10-0 before Ulster had even fired a shot. But then flanker Sean Reidy scored a try – his third in as many games – and a conversion from Ian Humphreys left Ulster trailing 10-7 at the break.

Though the Dragons then scored again through Carl Meyer, a penalty try and conversion from Jackson brought Ulster right back, before the Dragons were reduced to 13 men. They survived that and looked set fare to snatch a rare win in Belfast until Jackson did the needful.

ULSTER: L Ludik; C Gilroy, D Cave, S Olding, J Stockdale; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring (capt), R Lutton, A O'Connor, P Browne, R Diack, S Reidy, R Wilson. Replacements: P Jackson for Humphreys, S McCloskey for Ludik (both half-time), N Williams for Diack (43 mins), K McCall for C Black (49 mins), C Ross for S Reidy (52 mins), J Andrew for P Browne (56 mins), P Marshal for S Olding (64 mins), B Ross for R Lutton (69 mins).

N-G DRAGONS: C Meyer; A Hewitt, A Hughes, A Warren, H Amos; A O'Brien, C Davies; P Price, E Dee, B Harris, M Screech, R Landman (capt), B White, N Cudd, E Jackson. Replacements: J Benjamin for E Jackson (33 mins), B Stankovich for P Price ( 57 mins), S Knight for B Harris (64 mins), C Hill for B White (67 mins).

Referee: N Owens (WRU).