Tuesday 24 October 2017

Pienaar leads way as Ulster turn on style to keep 100pc record

Dragons 19 Ulster 46 John Fallon

Ulster's perfect start to the season shows no sign of losing momentum and they maintained their 100pc winning record with a comprehensive six-try rout at a freezing Rodney Parade.

Ulster had to deal with a decent challenge from the Dragons in the opening half, but once they got on top they took complete control.

Ulster got stronger as the game progressed, built around a rock solid pack and a backline full of running. Dragons had no answer and in the end were fortunate to keep the Ulster score shy of the half-century mark, with Ruan Pienaar hitting 21 points from his out-half position before switching to scrum-half when Paddy Jackson came on.

One of the main reasons for Ulster's impressive start to the season has been their ability to maximise scoring opportunities and they did that in the opening half to lead 19-16 at the break.

Dragons needed a good start and two early penalties from full-back Tom Prydie gave them an early boost, but the Ulster pack got on top and started to dictate. Nick Williams was involved twice in the opening try after 16 minutes, with Darren Cave also punching holes in the defence, before Pienaar made the crucial break which sent Tom Court in under the posts.

Pienaar added the easy conversion but was off target with two difficult penalties from the right as Ulster turned the screw.

However, Dragons hit back and worked 14 phases inside the Ulster half, going wide several times before coming back in and Andy Tuilagi's power took him through the challenges of Cave and Pienaar to the line, with Prydie's conversion making it 13-7.

But Ulster refused to be rattled. The rampaging Williams again made the hard yards and when it was recycled, he burst through Tuilagi to score beside the post.

Pienaar added the points to edge them 14-13 in front and while Prydie restored the Dragons' lead with another penalty, he was the guilty party at the other end when Pienaar charged down his clearance to score after a grubber from the Springbok had created the opening.

That left it 19-16 at the break and Pienaar doubled the lead inside two minutes with an easy penalty.

Tommy Bowe (pictured) had little to do in his full-back role but the Ulster defence remained solid as they set about wrapping up the game.

Pienaar tacked on another penalty and while Prydie pulled one back, Ulster secured the bonus point just short of the hour mark with another excellent try. Pienaar was again involved and while he was held up short, the ball was recycled with John Afoa taking it on before setting up Cave, who stepped inside to score.

Pienaar again converted to make it 32-19 and the home fans headed for the exits when Andrew Trimble intercepted Lewis Robling's pass on halfway and sprinted clear to score under the posts. Ulster did not relent and Jared Payne came off the bench to take a pass from another replacement Paddy Jackson and saunter over in the closing minutes.

Dragons -- T Prydie; W Harries, A Hughes, A Tuilagi (P Leach 71), T Chavhanga; L Robling, J Evans (L Davies 67); O Evans (N Williams 48), S Jones (S Parry 55), N Buck (D Way 67); A Jones (I Nimmo 55), R Sidoli, T Brown, J Groves, T Faletau (N Cudd 45).

Ulster -- T Bowe; A Trimble, D Cave (J Payne 67), P Wallace (L Marshall 56), C Gilroy; R Pienaar, P Marshall (P Jackson 64); T Court (C Black 60), R Best (N Brady 40), D Fitzpatrick (J Afoa 56), L Stevenson, D Tuohy, I Henderson (M McComish62), C Henry (capt), N Williams (R Wilson 53).

Ref -- P Fitzgibbon (IRFU).

Irish Independent

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