Dragons leave Ulster facing steep uphill battle
NG Dragons 22
Ulster's chances of a top-four shoot-out in the Magners League are hanging in the balance after sharing the spoils with Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill last night.
Ulster looked to be running away with the game when they went 17-6 up after 30 minutes, but handling errors and wrong options saw them lose their way. Like Ulster's overall performance, Rory Best had his moments, particularly his exuberance on the ball as he built up game time before a likely start against England next week at Twickenham.
Best looked keen for work, too keen according to the officials in the run-up to half-time when he was adjudged to have used his boot recklessly and found himself yellow-carded.
Ulster didn't take long to get points on the board with Ian Humphreys banging over a 35-metre penalty with two minutes gone after excellent breakdown work by Chris Henry.
Ulster's potent start was soon levelled with Dragons' man-of-the-match out-half Jason Tovey, who finished with 17 points, slotting over a wide-angled penalty.
The Ravenhill crowd were then warmed by the opening try of the game in the 27th minute by Paddy Wallace.
The move started deep inside the Ulster half when a mighty hack upfield by Andrew Trimble took play up to the opposition line where Wallace forced his way through a tackle to score.
Humphreys missed the conversion, but rifled over a long-range penalty in the 30th minute and when Dragons centre Rhodri Gomer Davies was yellow-carded after preventing a try-scoring opportunity, the Ulster out-half did the needful from close in.
A Tovey penalty in the 36th minute kept the Dragons in touch and when a bemused Best trooped off to the sin-bin two minutes later, the out-half banged over his fourth penalty leaving Ulster 17-12 ahead at the break.
With Best back in action, Ulster should have added to their total when after neat handling by Dan Tuohy and Humphreys, a score looked on, but Cave delivered a dreadful pass out wide and the chance was gone.
However, Tovey was never far from the action and a dropped goal in the 56th minute levelled the game again.
Ulster -- J Smith (I Whitten 57); A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, S Danielli (T Nagusa 73); I Humphreys, I Boss; B Young (D Fitzpatrick 60), R Best, BJ Botha, D Tuohy, E O'Donoghue (R Caldwell 60), TJ Anderson (R Diack 60), D Pollock (N Brady 77), C Henry, capt.
Dragons -- M Thomas; W Harries, T Riley, R Gomer Davies (M Watkins 70), A Brew; J Tovey, W Evans; H Gustafson, S Jones (T Willis 60), P Palmer (B Castle 58), R Sidoli (A Jones 52), L Charteris, capt, D Lydiate, G Thomas, G Webb (J Harris 58).
Ref -- Peter Allan (SRU).