Les Kiss’ reign as Director of Rugby got off to the prefect start with a first away win of the season as Ulster out dueled the Dragons at Rodney Parade.
It was Ulster’s first win in Newport since 2012 with scrum half Paul Marshall getting the only try of the game while Paddy Jackson added 14 points with the boot was backed up by a great defensive effort which restricted the Welsh region to four penalties.
The Dragons had dominated the early stages and turned their pressure into points when Robbie Diack was punished at the ruck and out half Dorian Jones slotted over a penalty from in front of the posts in the ninth minute.
Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey was sin binned on 15 minutes for an illegal block on Jones and the home out half doubled the Dragons lead with the resulting penalty.
Sammy Arnold was penalized on 19 minutes for playing the ball on the ground allowing Jones to land his third penalty.
Ulster got their opening period after their first sustained period of pressure in the Dragons half, from a lineout the forwards drove then after a series of pick and goes the Dragons strayed offside and Jackson kicked the penalty.
Ulster started to get a foothold in the game but using the forwards to make the hard yards and following another period of pressure Jackson landed his second penalty as British Lions No8 Toby Faletau went off his feet to cut the half time deficit to 9-6.
Ulster started the second half brightly, from a lineout the forwards drove, from a quick recycle Arnold had a probing run but was stopped short, the ball was recycled and worked through another couple of phases before Darren Cave made a dash for the line but Dragons scrum half Sarel Pretorius was able to dislodge the ball before the Ireland centre could ground it.
Dragons had captain Rynard Landman yellow carded in the build up and Ulster elected to take the scrum but after forcing another penalty and opting for the set piece the Dragons were able to disrupt and win a turnover clearing to touch.
Ulster’s second half domination was rewarded with the game’s opening try from Marshall.
From a lineout the forwards drove close to the line before Rob Herring peeled off and was stopped short, Ulster patiently moved the ball to the other side sucking in defending and when the gap appeared Marshall was able to take advantage and dart over with Jackson converting.
Rory Best was yellow carded eight minute after being sprang from the bench for playing the ball on the ground and Dragons replacement full back Jason Tovey slotted over the resulting penalty. Jackson was off target with a penalty a minute later.
The Ireland out half nudged Ulster’s cushion to four points with a penalty on 69 minutes.
Ulster a man down in the pack deployed McCloskey as an emergency flanker in the scrum and won a penalty after good work by Ricky Lutton and Jackson’s long range effort put a converted try between the sides with eight minutes remaining.
The Dragons should have scored when they created an overlap for Landman but with men outside him the second row when himself and a combination of Peter Nelson, Sean Reidy, Craig Gilroy and Ruan Pienaar prevented the home captain from ground the ball.
Ulster’s defence was fully tested as the Dragons pressed for a score but after keeping possession for three minutes Best was able to force a turnover penalty. Final score Dragons 12, Ulster 19.
Ulster back up to 5th Place