Ulster silence gutsy Dragons’ roar

ULSTER made it two wins out of two in their defence of their Celtic League title, now called the Magners League, as the a gutsy Dragons ran out of steam in a tremendous match.

But the game was marred by a horrible injury to Dragons number eight Nic Fitisemanu who is another to now be added to the region’s injury list ahead of his side’s clash with Llanelli Scarlets tomorrow.

Fitisemanu was having a terrific game and got the show on the road with the first try of an absorbing match.

Kiwi Fitisemanu went charging 10 yards to the Ulster line after a run up the middle from skipper Colin Charvis laid the foundations for Aled Brew and Mike Hercus to combine to put their back-row man in.

Ulster, hit by that sucker punch, drew level almost immediately. They put pressure on the Dragons close to the Welsh side’s line as full back Bryn Cunningham and winger Mark Bartholomeusz made an impact.

And from the ruck which followed, the ball was swung across the back division for out half David Humphreys to put flying wing Andrew Maxwell over in the corner, Humphreys adding the extras.

This was a better start by the Dragons than the one eight days earlier when they found themselves trailing by 20 points in Glasgow only to recover for a last-gasp 24-23 victory.

It was beginning to shape up into a terrific match as both sides put in some thumping tackles in midfield trying to find the gaps.

Ulster opened up a three-point gap when the Dragons were accused of being offside as Humphreys landed an easy shot from 10 yards in front of the posts.

But right at the end of the first quarter, the Dragons scored again when a move on the Ulster left, involving a number of slip passes, managed to find winger Brew who picked up from the 22 and raced into the corner.

The home support got behind their team and the Irishmen, missing half a dozen on their internationals, fought valiantly.

Once more, Ulster went in front as Cunningham finished off a lovely section of play from a ruck on the home 40-metre line as centre Paddy Wallace gave the ball out to Bartholomeusz who, in turn, threw a lovely pass inside to his rampaging full-back to go over.

Another Humphreys conversion put Ulster 17-14 in front but the Dragons replied as Sweeney booted a penalty and Brew got his second with a kick and chase down the left wing which he just managed to get his hands to before crashing into the advertising boards.

Humphreys and Sweeney kicked easy penalties from 10 metres before the game was halted for a serious clash of heads involving Wallace and Fitisemanu.

They collided heavily in a full-blooded tackle and six minutes later, the Dragons back row was stretchered off the pitch with his neck in a brace and needing oxygen.

He was later back on his feet in the dressing room.

Ulster were quicker back into the groove from the stoppage and they drew level again at 25-25 when centre Paul Steinmetz dropped a wonderful cross kick from midfield inside the Dragons 22 for Cunningham to latch onto and get his second try of the day.

And the final say went to scrum-half Kieran Campbell as he set up a decisive touchdown for replacement prop Declan Fitzpatrick to trundle under the posts. Humphreys’ conversion was simple.

DRAGONS: Warlow; Wyatt, N. Brew, Sweeney, A. Brew; Hercus, Walker; Black, Daly, R. Thomas, Gough, Sidoli, Charvis, Ringer, Fitisemanu.

Replacements: Crawford for Daly (68), Harrison for R. Thomas (64), Bearman for Fitisemanu (55).

ULSTER: Cunningham; Bartholomeusz, Steinmetz, Wallace, Maxwell; Humphreys, Campbell; J. Fitzpatrick, Shields, Court, Harrison, Barker, Ferris, McMillan, Wilson.

Replacements: Maggs for Wallace (62), Marshall for Campbell (73), Brady for Shields (78), D. Fitzpatrick for Court (61), McCullough for Harrison (49), Dawson for McMillan (61).

Referee: David Changleng (Scotland).

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