Ulster 23 Newport Gwent Dragons 6
Stuart Olding gave Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt plenty of food for thought after an outstanding display in Ulster’s Guinness Pro 12 victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons on Saturday night.
The 21-year-old from Belfast was the standout performer on the slippery Ravenhill surface with an assured display of attacking full-back play.
His quick feet, devastating swerve and power saw him score a scintillating try in the 29th minute after taking a meticulous line from a short pass from Darren Cave.
At that point Ulster had huffed and puffed without causing too much damage but Olding’s try along with two Paddy Jackson penalties had them 11-3 ahead at the break.
Then Olding crossed for his second effort eight minutes after the restart when he darted horizontally in at the corner flag.
In injury time prop Declan Fitzpatrick scored only his third try from 90 appearances to put a better look on the scoreboard as Ulster restricted the Dragons to two Angus O’Brien penalties.
But the game was all about Olding. Whenever he touched the ball, the noise from the 14,00-plus fans rose considerably.
However, Olding was downplaying his performance: “It was good out there,” said Olding whose only Ireland appearance came against the USA Eagles last year. “It was good to get game time as I haven’t played much this season after a year out with injury.
“When I heard I was going to be released for the game I was delighted. I was happy to play full-back, indeed I’m just happy to be playing some rugby.
“I was sitting in the house before the match and it was bucketing down and that made me a little nervous, but once I got on the field, I was fine,” said the versatile Olding, who is usually deployed at 12 and 10. “If you are down as a utility back you are not really a specialist, but at my age I think it is good to be playing in these positions as it gives you a perspective across the pitch.”
Scorers for Ulster: Tries: Olding 2, Fitzpatrick; Con: Humphreys; Pens: Jackson 2.
Scorers for Dragons: Pens: O’Brien 2.
ULSTER : S Olding, L Ludik (Andrew, 37), D Cave, S McCloskey (Humphreys, 63) P Nelson, P Jackson, P Marshall (Heaney, 78); C Black, R Herring, W Herbst (Fitzpatrick, 56), L Stevenson (McComb, 61), F van der Merwe, C Ross, S Reidy, R Wilson, capt (Diack, 5).
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: J Tovey (Jones, 45); A Hewitt, M Pewtner, R Williams (Nightingale, 69), A Brew, A O’Brien, R Rees (Evans, 69); B Stankovich (Evans, 52), T Rhys Thomas (Dee, 50), D Way (Fiarbrother, 30), J Thomas, R Landman, capt, L Evans (Griffiths, 65), J Benjamin, A Powell.
Referee: Matteo Liperini (Italy)
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