Match report: Ulster edge out Dragons
February 16, 2007
Ulster stayed in the hunt for back-to-back Magners League title triumphs with a 14-7 win over a Dragons side that left their recent rich vein of form back in Wales.
All the points were registered in the first 40 minutes, with Ulster quick out of the blocks as they sprinted to a 14-0 lead before the Dragons managed to close the gap with a late first-half score.
If there was little activity on the scoreboard, there was plenty to admire in the form of Neil Best and Stephen Ferris, whose physicality and enormous work rate constantly caught the eye.
Indeed, this was a win built on the back of a barnstorming performance from the home side's pack.
And, even if Ulster's precision went missing for large sections of the second half, they thoroughly deserved the win for a largely polished performance against an, at times, shambolic Dragons effort.
With Ulster quickly establishing set piece dominance and showing greater intensity at the breakdown, it was little surprise they dominated most of the first half.
Ferris caused considerable damage with his ball-carrying, while the work rate of Neil Best gave the home side a great platform from which to work.
Indeed, it was a tap penalty taken by Ferris that helped set up Ulster's first try.
The number eight's charge caused mayhem and allowed Isaac Boss to dummy and break to run in from 40 metres with the Dragons defence caught drifting. Humphreys added the points from that fifth minute score.
Ulster continued to turn the screw but had to wait until the 18th minute before they scored again, courtesy of Andrew Trimble.
A great steal from Neil Best, as the Dragons took the ball into contact, saw slick hands from Paddy Wallace put Trimble into space on the narrow-side.
Trimble stepped on the gas and beat two defenders in a powerful charge under the posts from over 50 metres. Humphreys again did the honours and Ulster now led 14-0.
Just on the half hour mark, Humphreys was wide with a penalty before the Dragons managed to show some previously unseen signs of life.
First, winger Gareth Wyatt burst through and chipped Bryn Cunningham before gathering the ball and falling over with the line in sight.
Two minutes later, though, and the Dragons did trouble the scoreboard when Aled Brew hit the line at full pace from an inside pass and surged over for Ceri Sweeney to add the conversion.
Humphreys was then wide with a late drop goal to leave the Dragons still in touch with the game, trailing 14-7 at half-time.
The remainder of the game was a fairly scrappy affair, the Dragons coming desperately close to scoring after spending five minutes encamped on Ulster's line, and with multiple phases within sight of scoring the home side's defence magnificently resisted the siege.
Both Colin Charvis and Adam Black went close, but the Dragons ultimately gave away a penalty, even though it was Ulster who were under huge pressure.
The game as a spectacle largely petered out with no points being scored in the second half.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra