Ulster secure a bonus point in the Rodney Parade mud
Jordi Murphy and John Cooney among the scorers as province see off the Dragons
John Cooney races clear to score Ulster’s third try against the Dragons. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Inpho
Dragons 15 Ulster 28
Ulster moved back into third in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 with a gritty 28-15 bonus-point win over the Dragons.
This was no classic in the Newport mud, but it was a vital result for Dan McFarland’s side who had been overtaken in the table by the Scarlets who downed Munster on Saturday.
A penalty score and a Taine Basham try for the Dragons gave Ulster something to worry about.
Ulster’s opponents were hit by the late withdrawal of captain Richard Hibbard who injured his ribs in the warm-up and an awful Rodney Parade surface didn’t help what was a scrappy game.
Ulster camped themselves out on the opposition’s 22. Phase after phase of attack was repelled, but the visitors retained possession and it eventually paid off as Murphy crashed over.
Cooney converted, but Lewis couldn’t follow suit with a three-point attempt. A second Ulster try nearly arrived when Nick Timoney linked with Cooney and Robert Baloucoune raced clear and dived for the corner, only to be tackled into touch by a fine last-gasp Jordan Williams cover.
Ulster were reduced to 14 just before the break when Darren Cave was yellow carded for an early tackle on Lewis as the Dragons broke clear.
Murphy had been a stand out performer in the first period and his fellow forward Moore pushed Ulster further clear when the game resumed.
The tighthead hit a lovely line off a Cooney pass and made it to the line despite being half-stopped. Cooney kicked the extras and then turned from creator to scorer as an awful chip from inside his own 22 from Dragons scrum-half Rhodri Williams was capitalised on by his opposite number.
Cooney converted and the search was on for the bonus point.
Moore had been treated for an injury in the act of scoring and was substituted while so too was Cooney with victory in the bag.
An automatic seven points gave the hosts some respectability, but Ulster were comfortable winners even with 13 men on the field they were able to crash over for a bonus-point effort via O’Connor.
Billy Burns kicked the goal and there was still time late on for the Dragons to grab a late consolation via Basham who was one of their few bright sparks.
Dragons: J Williams; H Amos, A Warren, J Sage, D Howells; J Lewis, R Williams; B Harris (J Reynolds 78), R Lawrence, L Fairbrother, J Davies, M Screech, H Taylor, T Basham, H Keddie. Replacements: L Greggains (for Keddie 19), L Brown (for Fairbrother 41), J Tovey (for Lewis 41), T Knoyle (for R Williams 50), T Morgan (for Amos 55), M Williams (for Davies 75), J Reynolds (for Harris 78) Not used: Shipp
Ulster: L Ludik; R Baloucoune, D Cave, S McCloskey, R Lyttle; B Burns (P Nelson 78), J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore, A O’Connor, K Treadwell, C Ross, J Murphy, N Timoney. Replacements: W Herbst (for Moore 52), D Shanahan (for Cooney 56), M Rea (for Ross 64), J Hume (for Cave 64), A Warwick (for O’Sullivan 64), J Andrew (for Herring 70), I Nagle for (O’Connor 77), P Nelson (for Burns 78)
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU)