Magners League: Dragons 13-20 Ulster

Ulster secured a place in the Magners League play-offs with victory against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

Centre Nevin Spence went over twice in the first quarter to give Ulster a flying start, with Pedrie Wannenburg adding a third try before half-time.

Tom Riley replied for the Dragons but the visitors held their nerve.

Ulster now travel to face rival Irish province Leinster for Friday's semi-final, after the Dublin side secured home advantage by beating Glasgow.

Ulster needed the 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.

But Glasgow were duly were duly thumped 38-3 in Dublin by Leinster to scupper those hopes and leave Ulster with a tricky trip to the RDS.

The first score of the match arrived when Spence scooped the ball up in the middle of the pitch and dashed to the right, diving in at the corner while Dragons full-back Steffan Jones desperately tried to put him into touch.

Matthew Jones, an early blood bin replacement for Jason Tovey, then booted the Dragons' first points with a penalty, but Ulster soon extended their lead.

Full-back 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 line-out throw was not fumbled by Gavin Thomas, allowing Ulster back-row Wannenberg to pounce nearly under the posts, allowing Ian Humphreys to kick his first conversion of the game.

Outside-half Tovey, briefly restored to action, reduced the home side's arrears to 14 points by the break but the Dragons were still facing an uphill battle.

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.

Dragons: Stefan Jones; Adam Hughes, Tom Riley, Pat Leach, Aled Brew; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Phil Price, Lloyd Burns, Dan Way, Luke Charteris, Adam Jones, Danny Lydiate, Gavin Thomas, Toby Faletau.

Replacements: Tom Willis for Burns (70), Hugh Gustafson for Price (63), Ben Castle for Way (70), Andrew Coombs for A. Jones (70), Joe Bearman for Faletau (63), Matthew Watkins for Riley (70), Jon Evans for W. Evans (74), Mathew Jones for Tovey (11-21, 42).

Ulster: A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, N Spence, S Danielli; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best (capt), D Fitzpatrick, J Muller, D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, C Henry, R Diack.

Replacements: A Kyriacou, P McAllister for Fitzpatrick (61), J Cronin, T Barker for Diack (66), T Anderson for Tuohy (70), P Marshall, I Whitten, C Gaston.

Att: 4,780

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).