Ulster slay the Dragons
May 6, 2011
Fly-half Ian Humphreys played his part in Ulster's win at Rodney Parade
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Ulster set up an clash with Heineken Cup finalists Leinster in the Magners League play-off semi-finals after finishing the regular season with a 20-13 win over Newport Gwent Dragons on Welsh soil.
The Irish province needed Glasgow Warriors to do them a favour in the final round of matches in order for them to secure a home tie in the play-offs. Glasgow were duly were duly thumped 38-3 by Leinster to scupper those hopes, but Ulster at least upheld their end of the deal as they ran in three tries without response by half-time to set themselves on the way to victory.
Dangerman Nevin Spence was the source of two tries, the first an excellent solo effort from 40 metres, while Pedrie Wannenberg added the third. The Dragons replied through a Tom Riley try and two penalties, but were always second best.
The first score of the match arrived when Spence picked the ball up in the middle of the Rodney Parade pitch and dashed to the right, diving in at the corner while Dragons fullback Steffan Jones desperately tried to put him into touch.
Jones then booted the Dragons' first points with a penalty, but Ulster soon extended their lead. Fullback Adam D'Arcy almost went over in the corner but when he was tackled by wing Aled Brew, he managed to feed the ball back for Spence to collect and drop over the line for his second.
The Dragons' problems were aggravated when a long lineout throw was not collected by Gavin Thomas. Ulster back-row Wannenberg, who had a tremendous game, grabbed the ball and powered past Tovey to make Ian Humphreys' first conversion of the game simple.
Outside-half Jason Tovey reduced the home side's arrears to 14 points by the break but the Dragons were still facing an uphill battle to get any kind of reward from the match.
After a slow 10 minutes at the start of the second period, the Dragons piled on the pressure as Ulster went off the boil. The hosts had the Irishmen in their own 22 for five minutes and were rewarded when scrum-half Wayne Evans fed Jones before he gave a scoring pass to centre Riley.
Jones' conversion made it 20-13 but that was the end of the scoring as the defences of both teams held firm to to the final whistle. The result gave the Dragons a losing bonus point but could not improve their final finishing place of seventh, the lowest of the Welsh regions.
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