Unbeaten Ulster ease past Dragons
MATCH REPORT: Ulster continued their victorious start to the 2020/21 PRO14 season as they cruised past Dragons 40-17 at the Kingspan Stadium.
Dan McFarland’s men had the bonus point wrapped up inside 32 minutes in Belfast and scored six tries in all to make it three wins from three in Conference A.
Dragons improved after the break, with Ashton Hewitt and Jamie Roberts crossing, but Ulster ran out comfortable winners.
The tone was set from the outset as Ulster, with the wind behind them, immediately took the attack to their visitors.
It took just five minutes for them to break the deadlock and the try came from a familiar source as Marcell Coetzee kept up his record of scoring in every PRO14 match this season, twisting free from a tackle to dot down from close range.
Dragons responded with a fine break from Rhodri Williams but the ball was spilt forward when recycled, though Sam Davies’ penalty put the visitors on the scoreboard.
Dean Ryan’s men could not build on that glimmer of hope and spent the rest of the half attempting to repel wave after wave of Ulster attacks.
The hosts’ second try saw Coetzee turn provider, collecting a pass above his head and setting up Eric O’Sullivan to bulldoze through under the posts, and the forwards were influential once more in the build-up to Sean Reidy’s 27th-minute score.
A bonus point looked inevitable and it was secured just after the half-hour mark through Louis Ludik, who finished off a fine move in the left-hand corner for his first try in 20 months.
Like London buses, one immediately became two as Ludik this time popped up on the right hand side to collect Matt Faddes’ offload and pounce on the bouncing ball after it spilled free, having come off a Dragons hand.
John Cooney continued his flawless first half off the tee to take Ulster into a 35-3 half-time lead but Dragons – perhaps with stinging words from Ryan ringing in their ears – were much improved after the break.
The visitors scored the try their second half play deserved just past the hour through Ashton Hewitt, who collected Jamie Roberts’ pass and evaded a tackle to go over in the corner.
Ulster re-asserted their authority by mounting a rare second half attack which ended with Alan O’Connell stretching to score his side’s sixth try, with the foundations laid by a dominant rolling maul.
Dragons had the last word as Roberts powered over with the clock in the red after a fine length of the field move to cap a spirited second-half display.
Tries: Coetzee, O’Sullivan, Reidy, Ludik 2, O’Connor
Cons: Cooney 5
Tries: Hewitt, Roberts
Cons: Davies 2
Ulster: 15 Rob Lyttle, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Michael Lowry
Dragons: 15 Jonah Holmes, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joseph Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Jamie Roberts
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Chris Busby
TMO: Olly Hodges