Spence brace sets up dream semi
A first-half brace from Nevin Spence helped Ulster clinch victory over the Dragons at Rodney Parade.
Ulster secured the solitary point they needed to progress into the Magners League semi-finals and will face Leinster at the RDS next weekend, but they didn't have it all their own way in South Wales.
In a dominant first 40, the visitors looked to be cruising, but with a change in the weather at the break, came a change in fortunes and the Dragons controlled the second period.
Ian Humphreys opened proceedings with a penalty to reward Ulster for their early advantage. The visitors then extended their lead with Spence scoring the first of his tries.
Quick ball off the top of the line-out found the centre in midfield and a powerful hand-off took him through the half-hearted tackle of Jason Tovey to score in the corner, Humphreys touchline conversion drifting wide.
Tovey left the field with a blood injury and his temporary replacement out-half Matthew Jones opened his side's account just after the 20-minute mark with a penalty. The reply was immediate from Ulster, though, as Spence grabbed his second of the evening.
The hard work was done by full-back Adam D'Arcy, who powered his way to line only to be prevented by Aled Brew at the death. Just as it seemed D'Arcy would be shoved into touch he threw the ball back inside and Spence collected for the easiest of touchdowns.
Tovey returned to kick the Dragons' second penalty, but Ulster grabbed their third try just three minutes before the break.
The decision to shun a shot at goal and kick to the corner looked the wrong one as Rory Best overthrew at the line-out, but the bouncing ball at the tail deceived the Dragons and Pedrie Wanneburg captialised, crashing over in the shadows of the posts.
Humphreys had no problem with his third conversion to give Ulster a 20-6 lead at the break.
In the second half rain the Dragons flourished and starved Ulster of the ball for long stretches, as a Tom Riley try and Jones conversion brought them right back into the game.
The Dragons continued to pressure at the death but couldn't find a way through and its Ulster whose season continues.
Dragons -- S Jones; A Hughes, T Riley (M Watkins 70), P Leach, A Brew; J Tovey (M Jones 16, 42), W Evans; P Price (H Gustafason 62), L Burns (T Willis 70), D Way (B Castle, 72); L Charteris (capt), A Jones (A Coombs 72); D Lydiate, G Thomas (J Evans 78), T Faletau (J Bearman 62).
Ulster -- A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, N Spence, S Danielli; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; T Court (P McAllister 58), R Best (capt), D Fitzpatrick; J Muller, D Tuohy; P Wannenburg, C Henry, R Diack (T Barker 65).
REF -- A Lewis (Ireland)