Dragons 32 Ulster 32: Australian international Christian Lealifano salvaged a 32-32 draw for Ulster with a last minute try against the Dragons at Rodney Parade.
But the Lealifano could not secure a much needed victory when he missed the conversion right in front of the posts.
The visitors looked to have been denied at the death with Dragons winger Ashton Hewitt crossing with just two minutes remaining.
The draw meant Les Kiss’ side missed a golden opportunity to leapfrog Leinster into second place in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14.
But the Ulstermen did leave with three match points scoring four tries courtesy of a brace from winger Craig Gilroy, a penalty try, a touch down from Paul Marshall and Lealifano.
However, Bernard Jackman’s side scored five tries through lock Matthew Screech, winger Hewitt, hooker Liam Belcher and full back Angus O’Brien.
The Dragons did make life difficult for themselves when inside centre Jack Dixon was given 10 minutes in the sin-bin for a dangerous tip tackle on Lois Ludick.
And the Welsh regions lack of experience was exposed from the word go with Gilroy crossing in the right-hand corner following some neat handling from Lealiifano.
Jackman’s side clawed themselves back into the game when Screech touched down following a powerful driving lineout from the home eight.
The hosts then took the lead with a Henson penalty following a powerful surge from young openside flanker Ollie Griffiths.With the momentum slowly turning in the Dragons’ favour Dixon made amends for his earlier ill-discipline by putting Hewitt over in the corner with a well weighted grubber kick.
Ulster quickly clawed their way back into the game with a penalty try when referee Marius Mitrea decided the Dragons had brought down a maul, which seemed certain to end in a try, deliberately.
Mitrea’s decision meant both sides turned around level at 15-15 at half time.
Ulster began the second period in the same fashion they hah started the first with Marshall dotting down in the corner, following a powerful surge by Nick Timoney.
The visitors secured the try bonus point with 20 minutes to spare when Gilroy powered over for his second. The Ulster pack had by now worked out how to beat this Dragons side going through the phases in order to bully the struggling Welsh region.
But just when Ulster seemed to be pulling away the Gwent region hit back with a try from Belcher who powered his way over the line after a strong Dragons maul.
The Dragons levelled the scores with a belting try by O’Brien following an initial break from Henson to ensure a nail biting finale.
Scorers for Dragons:
Tries: Screech 19, Dixon 28, Belcher 66, O’Brien 71, Hewitt 78 Conversions: Henson 19, 72 Penalties: Henson 24
O’Brien, Hewitt, Warren, Dixon, Rosser, Henson, Babos, Harris (Hobbs 30), Belcher, Fairbrother, J Davies, Screech (Landman 53), Wainwright (Roach 53), Griffiths, Benjamin
Tries: Gilroy 9, Penalty Try 32, Marshall 41, Gilroy 54, Lealifano 78 Conversions: Lealifano 54 Penalties: Lealifano 4,
Piutau, Gilroy, Bowe, McCloskey, Ludik, Lealifano, Marshall, van der Merwe (Black 54), Andrew (Best 52), Kane (Warwick 52), O’Connor, Treadwell, Jones (Henry 57), Reidy, Timoney
Three tries in the opening 19 minutes put Richard Cockerill’s side in command in Port Elizabeth but the hosts reduced the deficit to six by half-time. However, Dougie Fife sealed the bonus point and scrum-half Hidalgo-Clyne delivered a brilliant cameo display to claim 21 points himself in seven minutes.
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