Jackson radar off target as Ulster start off on wrong foot
Dragons 15 Ulster 8
Ulster failed to replicate last year's stunning start to the season as they slipped to a surprise defeat to the Dragons.
Last season's beaten Pro12 finalists notched up 11 straight wins in the league at the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign but were edged out after a below-par performance at Rodney Parade.
A first-half try from Roger Wilson and a single penalty from Paddy Jackson was all Ulster could muster against a side that finished 53 points behind them last term.
An early penalty from Jackson put Ulster ahead, but the lead lasted less than a minute as Jason Tovey replied with a 40-metre penalty. Ulster, though, were soon celebrating the game's first try thanks to Wilson's close-range effort.
The gap was just two points at the interval, but it should have been greater as Jackson missed three times from the tee in a row, with his final first-half attempt a particularly poor effort from only 25 metres, just to the left of the posts.
Ulster started the second period brightly, with Wilson and Paul Marshall making ground from another dominant scrum, but things went downhill from there.
A set piece that had been so solid suddenly began to wobble and the Dragons started to gain the upper hand at the breakdown.
Tovey kicked the Dragons ahead seven minutes after the restart, stretching the advantage to four points with another long-range effort on the hour mark.
Tovey left Ulster chasing a converted try to salvage a draw when he struck for a third time in the half with 10 minutes remaining and, even though they piled on the pressure in the closing stages, they couldn't find a way through a determined Dragons defence.
Dragons – D Evans; T Prydie, P Leach, J Dixon, H Amos; J Tovey, R Rees; A Coundley (P Price 44), T R Thomas, D Way (F Chaparro 44); A Coombs (capt), M Screech (A Jones 54); J Groves (N Talei 54), N Cudd, L Evans.
Ulster – J Payne; A Trimble, L Marshall, C Farrell (D Cave 54), D McIlwaine; P Jackson (J McKinney 67), P Marshall (I Porter 67); C Black (T Court 60), R Herring, R Lutton (D Fitzpatrick 54); J Muller (capt), D Tuohy (L Stevenson 62); R Diack, C Henry (S Doyle 67), R Wilson.
REF – C Blessano (Italy)