Thursday 23 March 2017

Last-gasp Jackson sends Ulster to the summit

Ulster 17 Dragons 15 Guinness Pro12

Sean Reidy goes over for his sides first try (SPORTSFILE)
Sean Reidy goes over for his sides first try (SPORTSFILE)
Paddy Jackson kicks a late penallty to win the game (SPORTSFILE)
Craig Gilroy is tackled by Hallam Amos and Carl Meyer (SPORTSFILE)
Darren Cave is tackled by Ashton Hewitt (SPORTSFILE)

Paddy Jackson banged over a dramatic penalty two minutes from the end of a mistake-riddled game to catapult Ulster to the top of the table for the first time this season.

It was a win off-form Ulster did not deserve after a lively Dragons side, who were reduced to 13 men at one stage, impressed with some superb defence and enterprising play.

Dragons led 10-7 at the break and looked to have secured victory until Jackson held his nerve to land the winning kick with 90 seconds remaining.

Dragons fired from the first whistle and before an Ulster player managed to get his mitts on the ball, the visitors had sweetly moved upfield and fly-half Angus O'Brien popped over a simple penalty.

That seemed to stir up Ulster, but they found the Dragons' extremely quick first-up defence hard to penetrate.

Then when Dragons' right wing Ashton Hewitt broke through a succession of weak tackles deep in his own half in the 16th minute, Ulster's defence was stretched and centre Adam Hughes was on hand to slide in at the corner on a slide-rule grubber kick by Adam Warren, with O'Brien adding the extras.

Ulster, though, came storming back again, and this time they had the patience to find a gap out wide on the left for flanker Sean Reidy to burst through a Hewitt tackle and race in at the corner. Ian Humphreys converted from the touchline.

With returning Irish duo Stuart McCloskey and Jackson entering the fray at the break, Ulster did start with a flourish, but is was Dragons who again took advantage of some inept tackling to go further ahead with Carl Meyer touching down to give the visitors a 15-7 lead.

Ulster got back in the hunt with a penalty try after Dragons lock Matthew Screech pulled down a forward drive destined for try. He got a yellow card for his troubles, as did Ben White soon after for a dangerous tackle on Peter Browne.

Outnumbered, but the Dragons defence was very stubborn and Ulster just could not break them down. It looked as if was not Ulster's night with already two disallowed tries, and Jackson's 70th minute penalty bouncing the wrong side of the crossbar.

But then the fly-half had the nerve to do the needful with his final effort at the end.

Ulster - L Ludik (S McCloskey 40); C Gilroy, D Cave, S Olding, J Stockdale; I Humphreys (P Jackson 40) R Pienaar; C Black (K McCall, 50), R Herring (capt), R Lutton (Ross, 70); A O'Connor, P Browne (Andrews 57); R Diack (N Williams 43), S Reidy (Ross 53), R Wilson.

Dragons - C Meyer; A Hewitt, A Hughes, A Warren, H Amos; A O'Brien, C Davies; P Price (Stankovich 58), S Knight, C Hill, J Benjamin, S Pretorius, G R Jones, N Scott. E Dee, B Harris, M Screech, R Landman (capt), B White, N Cudd, E Jackson (Benjamin 34).

REF - N Owens (Wales)

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