Pro 12: NG Dragons 26-22 Ulster
|Dragons (6) 26|
|Tries: Buckley, J Evans, Meyer Cons: D Jones Pens: Prydie, D Jones|
|Ulster (5) 22|
|Tries: Gilroy 2, Adair Cons: Pienaar 2 Pens: Pienaar|
Newport Gwent Dragons made it a clean sweep of wins for the Welsh regions over the Irish provinces as they battled to a 26-22 victory over Ulster.
Dragons' tries came from Rhys Buckley, Jonathan Evans and Carl Meyer in the second half, with Tom Prydie and Dorian Jones sharing the kicking duties.
Craig Gilroy crossed twice for Ulster and created Ross Adair's late score.
Ruan Pienaar kicked seven points but Ulster had to settle for a losing bonus point to help their play-off bid.
Both sides were forced to make late changes, with the Dragons giving a league debut to 23-year-old South African Meyer, stepping up from Ebbw Vale duties, after the withdrawal of full-back Rhys Jones.
Meanwhile, Ulster switched Gilroy to full-back and brought Rory Scholes in on the wing after Louis Ludik was a late withdrawal.
Scholes was almost given a third-minute chance on the overlap, but saw Mike Allen's pass sail into touch as Ulster failed to make the most of their early territorial advantage.
In contrast the Dragons scored in their first spell of pressure, as Prydie slotted over a 25-metre penalty.
Ulster scored the first try of the afternoon at the start of the second quarter when Scholes, coming in from the blindside wing, sliced through on the 10-metre line and put the impressive Gilroy clear to score - though the home crowd claimed there had been blocking in the build-up.
Prydie restored the home side's advantage with another short-range kick after 26 minutes but then failed with two long-distance efforts as most of the action continued to be played out in the middle of the field, with the visitors having more possession.
Pienaar pushed Ulster back ahead with a simple penalty after 47 minutes, moments after failing with another kickable shot, but Dorian Jones quickly put the Dragons in front again with a penalty for his first Pro12 points.
The turning point came when Ulster prop Callum Black was yellow-carded after dragging down a driving maul.
Dragons' replacement hooker Buckley was driven over for his first score in the league after another rolling maul and scrum-half Evans sniped over from a ruck 10 metres out. Jones kicked the extras while Ulster were down to 14 men.
Ulster made changes with Pienaar switching to fly-half but could not get back into the game until the 70th minute, when Darren Cave's break from a quick scrum saw Gilroy go over unopposed, with Pienaar converting.
The Dragons hit back straight away with Ashton Hewitt's run from halfway and an outstanding break by Hallam Amos giving Meyer a chance at the corner, with the newcomer doing superbly well to get the ball down on the line.
Ulster demonstrated their fighting attitude with a last-minute try created by a Gilroy chip for replacement Adair to touch down.
But although Pienaar drop-kicked the conversion there was no time for Ulster to break out of defence again, as the Dragons held out for their first home league win of the season against non-Italian opposition.
Ulster's only consolation was a move up the table to second, ahead of Munster on points difference.
Newport Gwent Dragons: Carl Meyer; Tom Prydie, Jack Dixon, Ashley Smith, Hallam Amos; Dorian Jones, Jonathan Evans; Boris Stankovich, T. Rhys Thomas (capt), Brok Harris, Andrew Coombs, Cory Hill, James Thomas, James Benjamin, Nick Crosswell.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, Scott Matthews, Luc Jones, Angus O'Brien, Ashton Hewitt.
Ulster: C Gilroy; R Scholes, D Cave (capt), M Stanley, M Allen, I Humphreys, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst, D Tuohy, F Van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Ross, N Williams.
Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, B Ross, L Stevenson, R Diack, P Marshall, S Arnold, R Adair.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Ben Whitehouse, Martyn Lewis (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU)
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)