The game started with a slight breeze blowing straight down the field and it was Ulster who played the first half with the wind behind their backs. It never really proved to be any advantage to the Red Hand province and indeed the opening ten minutes were very evenly contested. Evenly contested they may have been but ugly they definitely were, both teams guilty of making several unforced errors and you could sense the frustration building in the 4,452 crowd that had turned up.
As Ulster started to put the Dragons under pressure, David Humphreys put in a chip towards the home side's posts. Dragons scrum half called the mark and instantly looked to take the quick tap and break away, unfortunately for him, he knocked the ball on giving Ulster a scrum underneath the posts. A solid scrummage saw Kieran Campbell pass to Humphreys, who calmly slotted over a drop goal giving Ulster a 3-0 lead.
From the restart, the game resumed in the same way with both sides struggling to take control. Then came an inexplicable decision from the referee that could have proved to be an early turning point. He somehow judged Matt McCullough to be offside when he was struck by an attempted pass from the home side, there hadn't even been a ruck formed. Worse still, he saw fit to sin bin McCullough for the offence! Justice seemed to be done as Montgomery missed the resulting penalty.
Ulster were still down to 14 men and did well to shut the opposition out until McCullough was able to return to the field. Some fine place kicking from both Paul Steinmetz and David Humphreys kept the Dragons pinned in their own half. The pressure told as the home side gave away a penalty and Humphreys knocked the kick over for a 6-0 lead.
Some missed opportunities saw Ulster waiting on half time having scored no more points. They seemed to relax as the whistle beckoned, allowing Jason Forster to slip in for a score under the sticks. Montgomery converted.
Half Time: Dragons 7 - 6 Ulster
As the second half kicked off, it was noticeable that the wind had gotten a lot stronger and might prove to be more of a factor.
This proved to be the case as the Dragons were able to keep Ulster trapped in their own '22', forcing Ulster to kick for short distances. The visitors were able to break out after 49 minutes and got themselves a penalty, scrum half Campbell took the quick tap and made 30 yards before feeding Steinmetz who popped to Rod Moore who drove for the line, a ruck formed and the referee saw a knock on. Ulster replaced Rory Best and Gary Longwell with Paul Shields and Rowan Frost.
After 54 mins, the Dragons earned themselves a penalty in front of the post which Montgomery converted taking the lead to 10-6.
Moore was replaced by Ronan McCormack. Ulster seemed to be sparked into life and for the next twenty minutes controlled the game. Another great break from Campbell saw Ulster launch an attack, they showed good patience in an attack that involved almost every player. Eventually, the ball game wide to Bryn Cunningham whose strength took him over the line. Humphreys missed the difficult conversion but Ulster had taken the lead 11-10.
This was short lived however, and on 76 mins the Dragons were awarded a penalty on the halfway line in the centre of field. Montgomery kept his composure and made the kick giving the Dragons a 13-11 lead that Ulster were not able to overhaul.
|Newport Gwent Dragons Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|