Dragons hot on opening night
The Dragons picked up an impressive 15-8 victory over Ulster in their RaboDirect PRO12 opener at Rodney Parade on Friday.
Five kicks from man-of the match Jason Tovey saw the Dragons secure a morale-boosting win, cancelling out Roger Wilson's try for last year's finalists.
Tovey edged the hosts ahead on eight minutes, when he slotted over a neat drop-goal.
The Ulster scrum earned a deserved penalty on twelve minutes, following some tremendous work which led to Paddy Jackson duly levelling the scores. Tovey restored parity on fifteen minutes, however.
The penalty count accumulated for both teams; with the ball being fiercely contested on the floor. One such concession saw Ulster launch a formidable maul just yards from the home try line; ending with Roger Wilson touching down to make it 6-8.
Ulster's scrum ascendancy yielded another penalty on 33 minutes, but Jackson suffered a dreadful miss.
Tovey likewise missed a difficult attempt on 38 minutes. By the cusp of half-time, the Welsh hosts had begun to find their rhythm, and were subjecting last year's beaten finalists to discernible pressure.
It was Tovey who scored the first points of the second half on 49 minutes, when he landed a penalty following poor Ulster control at the breakdown.
Tovey extended the Dragons' lead on 59 minutes; earning the Welsh side a thoroughly deserved four-point cushion.
The introduction of a raft of substitutes on 65 minutes galvanised the Irishmen; Ian Porter and Sean Doyle in particular threatening with ball in hand. But the game refused to ignite, and the Dragons defended stoutly.
A stellar break by centre Jack Dixon saw him find Richie Rees in space, creating another penalty opportunity for that man Tovey on 70 minutes. The number ten continued his imperious form to make it 15-8 to the hosts.
Ulster were now desperately trying to salvage the game. Replacement fly-half James McKinney went to the corner on 73 minutes, and the away forwards subsequently camped in the home 22. But the Dragons' rearguard was simply magnificent. The hosts were able to clear their lines, therefore, and winning a couple of crucial penalties at scrum time assisted their cause.
It was the Welshmen who held on to seal a thoroughly deserved victory that guarantees their league campaign the best possible start. Ulster will rue a litany of errors, but for the Dragons this was a statement of early season promise.