Home page | Official Irish Rugby

Provincial


British & Irish Lion Iain Henderson made a welcome return to the Ulster matchday squad, coming off the bench at Kingspan Stadium, but it was number 8 Nick Timoney who really caught the eye with a man-of-the match display and two tries.

The only unbeaten side in their conference, Ulster's fourth straight victory saw them leap above Leinster, who were beaten in Bloemfontein by the Toyota Cheetahs, on 18 points.

Les Kiss' men had the bonus point sewn up within half an hour, with scores from Stuart McCloskey, Peter Nelson and Timoney, as well as a penalty try, pulverising the Dragons before Wiehahn Herbst, Jacob Stockdale, Timoney again and David Shanahan compounded the visitors' misery.



Both Kiss and his Dragons counterpart Bernard Jackman made wholesale changes from their victorious starting XVs in round 3, although Ulster's nine alterations seemed conservative in comparison to the Welsh region's 13.

The John Cooney-Christian Lealiifano half-back partnership with the 100% winning record was rested, giving Paul Marshall and Nelson their chance at scrum half and out-half respectively. Further changes in the back-line brought in the fit-again Charles Piutau at full-back, Tommy Bowe on the right wing and Darren Cave at outside centre, while inside centre McCloskey and left winger Stockdale retained their places.

Up front, Ireland Sevens international Timoney made his first appearance at number 8, while prop Rodney Ah You, lock Robbie Diack and flanker Clive Ross were all promoted from the bench. Kyle McCall and Rob Herring completed the front row, with Alan O'Connor partnering Diack in the second row and Chris Henry captaining the side from the back row.

Ulster proved far from unsettled by the changes, running over their first try within two minutes. Piutau was the architect, creating something from nothing after scooping up a misplaced pass and sashaying his way between two Dragons to pick out Ross. The flanker linked with his back row colleague Henry, who in turn supplied McCloskey for a fine team try.



Dorian Jones clawed back three points with a 35-metre penalty, but Ulster were in irrepressible form and a trademark diagonal run from Bowe laid the foundation for try number two, Nelson eventually breaking through the heart of the Dragons defence thanks to a neat dummy.



Three more points followed from Jones before things went from bad to worse for the visitors as they first leaked a penalty try off a strong Ulster rolling maul and then had prop Lloyd Fairbrother sin-binned for his illegal attempts to prevent the score.

Piutau was again instrumental for the bonus point try on 25 minutes, weaving more wing wizardry before Diack took over with a bullish drive to the line where Timoney was on hand to apply the finishing touch for a score his performance richly deserved.



There was still time in the first half for a textbook forward's try for each side. Firstly, Herbst - a temporary blood replacement for Ah You - bundled his way over on the half hour mark, before hooker Rhys Buckley made it over in the corner for the Dragons off a rolling maul. Twenty points separated the sides at the interval, with Ulster 33-13 to the good.

The province notched their sixth try on 44 minutes, Stockdale capitalising on a stroke of bad luck for Dragons centre Thretton Palamo, who failed to apply downward pressure to Bowe's grubber behind his own line, leaving the door wide open for the winger who had done well to chase down the kick.



Timoney's second try five minutes later was perhaps the pick of the bunch, the determined back rower receiving a pass from McCloskey well outside the 22 and swivelling his way clear of three tackles to ground the ball under the posts.

Dane Blacker's 55th-minute breakaway try was followed by perhaps the loudest cheer of the evening to herald Henderson's return to provincial duty, but it was another replacement, scrum half Shanahan, who made the more immediate impact, grabbing the eighth try after alertly taking a quick tap penalty.



The game edged to its close with a TMO-overruled try for each side - denying Stockdale a brace on the Ulster side - but with eight tries in the bag, the Kingspan Stadium crowd were not overly vociferous in their disapproval.

There was even time in the dying seconds for a third Dragons try, this time for William Talbot-Davies, and a yellow card for Ah You for a poorly-executed shoulder-led tackle. Table-topping Ulster travel to Parma next week for a Saturday afternoon date with Conference A outfit Zebre.
No ALT tag specified