Ruthless Pienaar downs Dragons
March 18, 2011
Ruan Pienaar scored a late drop-goal for Ulster
© Getty Images
Ruan Pienaar slotted a drop-goal with the last kick of the game as Ulster scraped past the Dragons 25-23 at Ravenhill on Friday night.
The former Springbok's kick ensured that the Irish province moved into the Magners League play-off places, but in reality they were fortunate to sneak the result against a Dragons outfit that dominated the second-half.
Only moments before Pienaar's drop-goal, visiting fly-half Jason Tovey had landed one of his own to secure a 23-22 lead, adding to his first-half try. Dragons flanker Lewis Evans and winger Aled Brew also crossed for tries but Ulster crafted late reponses from Tommy Seymour and Darren Cave, Nevin Spence having set them on their way with five points inside the opening 10 minutes.
Ulster hit the ground running and were ahead in the seventh minute when Martyn Thomas was adjudged to have kicked the ball straight into touch outside his 22. Tim Barker won Ulster's lineout and the ball was spun at pace allowing Luke Marshall to put Spence through, with what looked like a forward pass, a huge hole in the Dragons' defence.
Pienaar converted and while Tovey missed a shot at goal on 11 minutes, the Dragons playmaker quickly made up for his error with their opening try. A horror error by Ulster fullback Adam D'Arcy opened the door for the visitors, with his failure to deal with a kick allowing Brew to hack ahead and Tovey to score. He was again off-target with the boot however.
Pienaar extended the hosts' lead with a penalty on 25 minutes and they ended the half the stronger, coming out on the wrong side of a refereeing decision as debutant wing Conor Gaston was obstructed as he looked to chase his own kick ahead.
Tovey missed another shot at goal seven minutes into the second-half but again Ulster opened the door for a try to the Welsh region. This time it was poor fringe defence that let them down, with Evans able to power over from close range despite the hosts having taken time to re-organise after an earlier scare. Centre Adam Hughes took over the kicking and landed a good-looking conversion.
The Dragons pulled further ahead following a pacy charge from winger Will Harries, with Brew rounding off a try thanks to more helpful defence from the hosts. The Wales international picked a good angle from another short pass and once he was through the first tackle he comfortably beat the cover to score. Hughes was off-target with the extras.
Ulster boss Brian McLaughlin emptied his bench in search of a riposte and two of his replacements combined to bring them back into contention. Pedrie Wannenburg provided the initial incision by shrugging out of Joe Bearman's tackle and his offload allowed the Glasgow-bound Seymour to break along the touchline and avoid a poor attempted tackle by Thomas. Pienaar was off-target with the conversion, leaving the Dragons with a two-point lead.
Dragons replacement Matthew Jones entered the fray and extended their lead to five with a penalty on 69 minutes but four minutes from the end the hosts struck for the killer blow. The impressive Gaston showed good strength to smash through in midfield and replacement Cave loomed in support, the centre diving in close to the posts and allowing Pienaar to convert.
The Dragons pinched the ball at the restart and worked space for Tovey to drop them back into the lead, but Pienaar had one last trick up his sleeve as he returned the favour to seal the win for Ulster.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September