Bowe gets into his stride as Ulster cruise

Ulster 38 Newport-Gwent Dragons 8

Bowe gets into his stride as  Ulster cruise

Making his first start since he picked up a troublesome groin problem against the All Blacks in November, Bowe sprinted in for a rapid-fire double midway through the first half before departing at half-time, with Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt undoubtedly whetting his lips as he looked on.

Bowe looked very lively despite his frustrating bell on the sidelines. Indeed he could have had a hat-trick after his touch let him down earlier in the opening stanza of a game Ulster never looked like conceding.

The only down side for Ulster was Ireland centre Luke Marshall leaving proceedings in the 20th minute with what looked like a bang to the head.

The home side wasted no time in edging ahead when Pienaar rifled over a long-range penalty in the second minute. A brutal and fair tackle by flanker Robbie Diack on Rhys Jones a few minutes later showed that Ulster were in a serious and high-tempo mood.

Indeed they could have crossed for the opening try soon after when Bowe, who had returned after being out since early November, just failed to hold a soft pass from Darren Cave.

The opening try was not long coming though, as Jared Payne tossed a controlled long pass to Cave in oodles of space and he sprinted up to Jones, before releasing Pienaar to run in under the posts. Jackson converted to give Ulster the start they wanted. The Dragons, who parted company with their head coach Darren Edwards 24 hours previously, rarely troubled Ulster in that opening quarter as the hard-edge to the home tackling kept on the back foot.

Bowe then got back into his try-scoring mode with a double in two minutes. First he took an inside pass off Pienaar to surge in from 35 metres. Then in a virtual replica two minutes later, it was Jackson who fed Bowe and he barn-stormed through the Dragons defence to run in under the posts. Jackson converted both, and Ulster were rampant.

The bonus try was not long coming when after Dragons’ prop Owen Evens was yellow-carded for repeated scrum infringement, referee Lloyd Linton punished the visitors after another collapse to award the ultimate punishment, with Jackson again converting.

Dragons did manage one big sortie in the run-up to half-time with Rhys Jones knocking over a penalty.

There was no let-up for the Welshmen, however, with flanker Doyle charging over for try number five after a brilliant break by young winger Rory Scholes. The game became extremely loose and messy loose midway through the half, particular after both benches were emptied and Ulster had flankers Michael McComish and Doyle on the wings.

Dragons did final manage to breach the Ulster defence in the 63rd minute when winger Ross Wardlow crashed over in the corner. There was plenty of huffing and puffing after that, but no addition to the scoreboard.

Scorers for Ulster: Tries: Pienaar, Bowe 2, penalty, Doyle; Cons: Jackson 5 Pens: Pienaar

ULSTER: J Payne; T Bowe (McIlwaine, 40), D Cave, L Marshall (McCloskey, 20), R Scholes (P Marshall, 54); P Jackson (McComish, 63), R Pienaar (Stevenson, 72); C Black (Court, 61), R Herring (Annett, 72), R Lutton (Macklin, 68); J Muller, capt, I Henderson; R Diack, S Doyle, R Wilson.

DRAGONS: R Jones; M Pewtner, P Leach, A Smith (capt) (Dixon, 63), R Wardle; S Jones (Robling, 58), R Rees (Evans, 47); O Evans, T Rhys Thomas (Gustafson, 58), B Douglas (Bell, 54); M Screech (Sidoli, 58), C Hill (Screech, 64); J Groves (Jones, 63) , N Cudd, L Evans.

Ref: L Linton (SRU)

Scorers for Dragons: Try: Wardle: Pen: Jones

RaboDirect PRO12 Edinburgh 31 Ospreys 25.

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