Ulster were beaten 22-9 by the Newport Dragons at Rodney Parade to make it two defeats in a row in Wales after last week’s defeat to Ospreys ended their unbeaten start to the season.
A Tom Riley try in the 24th minute converted by out-half Jason Tovey led the Dragons win comfortably at home for only their second win of the season.
The game got off to a slow start with both teams giving away silly penalties but it was Ulster who capitalised on this by getting the first points on the board when Paddy Jackson kicked a penalty in the 6th minute.
The Dragons levelled the score just two minutes later after Ulster gave away a sloppy penalty and it took over ten minutes for Dragons to extend their lead to 6-3 when Ulster gave away another penalty for being offside and Tovey doubled his tally for the day.
The time before and after that kick from Tovey was marred with poor play by both teams as handling errors and cheap penalties seemed to be the common theme which made for a bad spectacle.
Ulster went down to 14 men in the 23rd minute when Nevin Spence was given a yellow card for a high tackle on Tonderai Chavhanga and the Dragons immediately took advantage of their situation with a try in the 24th minute.
Tom Riley’s try gave the game a short shot in the arm when his run and dummy breached the Ulster defence a little too easily for the liking of Brian McLaughlin as the Dragons centre grabbed the only try of the game.
Jason Tovey converted Riley’s try and scored another two penalties before the referee blew the whistle for half time.
If the first half was a poor spectacle, the second half made it look riveting as Ulster’s mistakes started to become comical.
A mistake by Ian Porter summed up Ulster’s performance as his bizarrely slack pass nearly allowed the Dragons to jump on Ulster’s back line and score their second try.
Ulster had a try ruled out when Ian Whitten was adjudged to have been in touch when he touched the ball down behind the Dragon’s try line but replays showed he was in touch when he made the try.
Paddy Jackson and Jason Tovey scored a penalty each before the full 80 minutes were up and the Dragons got their second win of the season under their belt as Ulster will have to go back to the drawing board.
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Dragons 22 v 9 Ulster
Full time: It’s all over at Rodney Parade as a poor second half sees both teams only score two penalties between them in the last 40 minutes. Ulster’s good start to the season has well and truly ended against an average Dragons side. They gave away too many penalties and made countless handling errors as they went out with a whimper in Wales.
80min: Jackson goes on a run but is stopped inside Ulster’s 22 metre line.
78min: Ulster have possession again but the Dragons are pinning them back in their own half.
77min: Ulster turn the ball over but then lose possession again as the Dragons have a lineout.
75min: The Dragons slow play down in Ulster’s half. Ulster eventually win possession but the referee gives the Dragons the put in to the scrum for a knock on by Ulster.
74min: Poor kick by Gilroy gives away possession extremely cheaply to the Dragons who have a lineout.
70min: Smith comes off for Matthew Jones.
69min: The Dragons turn the ball over as Ashley Smith receives attention after a big challenge.
68min: The TMO says the Ulster wingers foot was in touch and the try doesn’t count.
68min: Ulster’s Ian Whitten grounds the ball and the referee goes to the TMO for a decision as it looks like Whitten’s foot was in touch.
67min: Ulster have a chance to break down the line but Marshall’s pass evades his teammates and the ball is hacked clear by Chavhanga.
66min: Adam D’arcy come on for Conor Gaston.
64min: Tovey misses his first kick the game as his attempt hits the post.
63min: Good box kick by the Dragons is capitalised on by Chavhanga and results in a penalty to the home team.
62min: Scrum to the Dragons on the half way line.
60min: Good play by the Dragons who keep the possession well but they are eventually penalised for holding on and Ulster kick to clear.
57min: Big hit by Gilroy on Poole gives possession back to Ulster.
55min: Play resumes after the referee’s assistant gets attention to his comm headset. Ulster are on the attack with Adam D’arcy. Ulster’s attack is stopped as they are penalised for crossing.
54min: Mike Poole’s run is finally defended by Ulster and Jackson’s kick clears it to the Dragons 10 metre line.
51min: Ulster have a chance to kick for 3 points and Jackson lines it up. The Ulster out-half scores from the penalty.
47min: Tovey converts a penalty. He hasn’t missed a kick today.
45min: Pedrie Wannenburg knocks the ball on. Terrible mistake by the Ulster flanker.
44min: Ulster’s good attack is stopped as they give away a cheap penalty for going over the top in a ruck again.
43min: Better play from Ulster as they attack the Dragons high up the pitch in their own half.
42min: The Dragons attack Ulster’s left wing and Chavhanga is tackled to stifle their play but another poor mistake from Ulster gives away possession again.
41min: Tovey gets the game back underway as the two teams kick into each others half repeatedly.
Half time: Ulster go into the changing rooms at half time 13 points down. Ulster are giving away too many penalties as both teams are making poor handling mistakes which makes for a bad spectacle.
40min: Tovey kicks for 3 points. The referee blows for half time.
39min: Tovey tries to send Smith away down the line with a kick over the top but Smith can’t control it. The referee calls play back for a penalty to the Dragons however, after another offside decision against them.
37min: Ulster make a mistake from a quick lineout and the Dragons get the put in to a scrum on Ulster’s 5 metre line.
35min: Jackson kicks the ball between the posts with a good effort to cancel out Tovey’s most recent kick.
34min: Ulster have a penalty just inside the Dragons’ half and Jackson steps up to kick at goal.
33min: Tovey kicks for 3 points and the Dragons now have some breathing space over Ulster.
32min: Ulster give away another penalty for being offside again as the ref has a word with captain Chris Henry.
29min: Chris Henry tries to catch a high ball but knocks it on and the Dragons get the put in to the scrum just inside Ulster’s half.
27min: Ulster win a penalty around the half way line but Paddy Jackson kicks it wide.
25min: Tovey converts and puts the Dragons 10 points ahead of Ulster.
24min: Tom Riley waltzes through the Ulster defence to score the first try of the game for the Dragons. Poor defending by Ulster.
23min: The referee gives a yellow card to Spence after a high tackle on Chavhanga, and the Ulster centre goes to the sin bin.
21min: More poor ball handling, this time from Ulster as Marshall spurns a try scoring opportunity by dropping the ball.
19min: Jason Tovey makes no mistake from the penalty and kicks it between the posts.
18min: Ulster are penalised for an offside and give away a penalty in a scoring position for the Dragons.
17min: Ulster’s lineout isn’t straight and the Dragons the put in into the scrum.
16min: Tovey relieves some of the pressure on his team with a good kick to touch in Ulster’s half.
15min: The Dragons attack is stifled as they are penalised for holding on.
14min: Ulster give the ball away and the Dragons win their scrum.
12min: Poor play by the Dragons whose ball handling has been poor so far. The Dragons’ new signing Chavhanga shows great pace to beat a few Ulster players and his kick forward results in a scrum to Ulster in fron of their own posts.
10min: Scrum to Ulster inside the Dragons’ half and they come out of it with possession on the attack. Gilroy can’t catch a bad pass by Spence and Ulster give the ball away cheaply for a lineout to the Dragons.
8min: Jason Tovey levels the score from the penalty.
7min: Big hit by Gilroy on Mike Poole but the referee calls play back for a penalty to the Dragons.
6min: Paddy Jackson kicks it over for the first 3 points of the game to Ulster.
5min: The Dragons’ second row come over the top in a ruck and give away a penalty in front of the posts for Ulster.
4min: Paddy Jackson kicks into touch for an Ulster lineout on the Dragons 22.
2min: Eavan Spence is penalised for a high tackle and the Dragons kick their penalty into touch at Ulster’s 22. The Dragons waste their line out as Ulster win possession.
1min: We’re underway at Rodney Parade and Ulster pin the Dragons back in their own half.
Dragons: Martyn Thomas, Tonderai Chavhanga, Tom Riley, Ashley Smith, Mike Poole, Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans, Nathan Williams, Tom Willis (c), Nathan Buck, Adam Jones, Rob Sidoli, Lewis Evans, Gavin Thomas, Andrew Coombs.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Kieron Jenkins, Darren Waters, Jevon Groves, Joe Bedford, Geraint O’Driscoll, Matthew Jones.
Ulster: A D’Arcy, C Gilroy, L Marshall, N Spence, I Whitten; P Jackson, P Marshall; D Fitzpatrick, N Brady, J Cronin, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, W Faloon, C Henry (cpt).
Replacements: A Kyriacou, K McCall, A Macklin, T Barker, R Diack, I Porter, J McKinney, C Gaston
Ulster will travel to Newport to play the Dragons at Rodney Parade stadium on Friday, with kick off at 7.05pm.
Ulster currently lie fourth in the RaboDirect Pro12 league table with three wins and a defeat in their opening four games leaving them five points off Munster at the top spot.
Brian McLaughlin’s side had their undefeated start to the season scuppered by the Ospreys last week in a 32-14 defeat.
The Ulstermen will be hoping for a better result this time around in Wales as the Dragons have got off to a bad start to their season with only one win in four and losing their remaining three games.
The only other team the Dragons have beaten this season are Italian side Aironi who currently are the only team below them on point difference.
The Dragons have had no luck this season against Irish opposition and have lost against Munster, Leinster and Connacht since the season began.
McLaughlin has named a provisional squad to face the Dragons with Darren Cave and Ian Humphreys back in the squad after hamstring and shoulder injuries respectively have kept the sidelined, but it is unclear whether they will be rushed back so soon.
Jared Payne and Andi Kyriacou came off with injuries against the Ospreys last week but they could be back in contention for Friday’s game.
The Dragons’ season hasn’t been helped by the World Cup in New Zealand as 12 players from their club are out on international duty.
On top of their international stars missing out, the Dragons have also got an extensive injury list with two wingers Adam Hughes and Mike Poole missing out due to head and shoulder injuries while prop Ben Castle and full back Jamie Smith are both out due to hamstring injuries.
Despite the negatives with the injuries, the Dragons’ have boosted their squad with the acquisition of South African winger Tonderai Chavhanga, bought from Super 15 side the Lions.
With injuries to the wings Hughes and Poole, it looks like Chavhanga will slot in comfortably for his first start in the Pro 12 against Ulster.
The last encounter between these two sides at Rodney Parade was back in May when Ulster overcame the home team to win 20-13.
FORWARDS: Jerry Cronin, Conor Carey, Paddy McAllister, Declan Fitzpatrick, Adam Macklin, Andi Kyriacou, John Burns, Niall Annett, Nigel Brady, Tim Barker, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Neil McComb, Pedrie Wannenburg, Mike McComish, Chris Henry (captain), Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack
BACKS: Paul Marshall, Blane McIlroy, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, James McKinney, Luke Marshall, Nevin Spence, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Craig Gilroy, Conor Gaston, Jared Payne, Adam D’Arcy.