Wallaby secures draw for Ulster against Dragons
The flyhalf touched down with the clock in the red to bring to an end the unlikely encounter which the hosts looked to have snatched right on the final whistle themselves through Ashton Hewitt.
Liam Belcher and Angus O’Brien also touched down in a three-try 11-minute period, adding to Matthew Screech’s score and Hewitt’s first of the night before the break.
But Ulster hung on and clawed their way back, with Craig Gilroy’s try double and Paul Marshall score in the first half putting them in the box seat, also adding to a penalty score.
Great Ulster handling got the visitors flying high within ten minutes as Gilroy dotted down the opener, blitzing down the right flank after some impressive work through the hands.
WHAT. A. FINISH! @CLealiifano has the chance to win it for @UlsterRugby only to miss the conversion as it ends 32-32 against @dragonsrugby at Rodney Parade!#GUINNESSPRO14 #DRAvULS pic.twitter.com/1HWTUF7LHY
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) December 1, 2017
The Irish province continued to threaten but Dragons got the next score through a powerful drive which saw Screech rumble over as Henson converted to cut the deficit to 8-7.
Henson’s boot put his side again, this time via a penalty, and the advantage was extended after an unfortunate slip from Louis Ludik allowed Hewitt to pounce.
The half was to end level however and it was no less than either side deserved, with Ulster’s impressive rolling maul eventually leading to a penalty try and a 15-15 scoreline.
But that wasn’t to last long as Ulster broke forward immediately from kick-off, with Gilroy’s work and Marshall’s quick-thinking leading to the scrum half rumbling over with 42 minutes on the clock.
In the groove, Ulster were seeking a bonus point and duly got it 15 minutes into the second half, Gilroy again on the scoreboard for his second of what was fast becoming an entertaining match.
But Dragons were not to give up without a fight and got themselves back in the contest with Belcher the man to dot down.
The hooker made the most of some excellent work from the line-out, driving over to set up a grandstand finish with seven points the difference and 13 minutes remaining.
O’Brien then got in on the act, finishing off some lovely skill, and the hosts even got the lead with their fifth try of the evening as Hewitt flew over into the corner to send all parts of Rodney Parade into pandemonium.
But the final word was to come from the visitors, taking three hard-earned points as Lealiifano dotted down – though he wasn’t able to convert as the game ended in truly breathless scenes.
Tries: Screech, Hewitt 2, Belcher, O'Brien
Cons: Henson 2
Tries; Leali'ifano, Gilroy 2, Marshall, Penalty
Yellow card: Dixon (Dragons, 4)
Dragons: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Dan Babos, 8 James Benjamin, 7 Ollie Griffiths (captain), 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Gerard Ellis, 18 Sam Hobbs, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Ben Roach, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Pat Howard
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Greg Jones, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Ross Kane, 2 John Andrew, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Callum Black, 18 Andrew Warwick, 19 Matthew Dalton, 20 Chris Henry, 21 John Cooney, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Andrew Trimble
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Lloyd Linton (Scotland), Keith Allen (Scotland)
TMO: Andrew Cymene (Scotland)