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VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: ULSTER 38 NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS 8

Ruan Pienaar and Sean Doyle also contributed a try apiece on top of a first half penalty try, securing a fully-deserved bonus point which leaves Ulster in third place in the RaboDirect PRO12 table - a full five points clear of closest chasers, the Ospreys.

The Dragons, whose head coach Darren Edwards announced his immediate departure from the region earlier today, struggled against the pace and power of a revitalised Ulster.

Mark Anscombe's men were buoyed by the return of Tommy Bowe, who played only the first half of the game but certainly left an indelible mark on its outcome.

A long range Pienaar penalty got Ulster off the mark after three minutes, and the scrum half was straight back into the action from the restart as his dummied pass to young winger Rory Scholes created the space for him to charge towards the Dragons' 10-metre line unchallenged.

Roger Wilson carried to the verge of the 22 before a quick series of passes almost unleashed Bowe, with the Ireland and Lions star unfortunate to knock on as he shaped to rip the Welsh rearguard asunder.

After a Dragons breakaway on 12 minutes had been blighted by a similar handling error, Ulster built from deep, Jared Payne eliminating four or five men with a diagonal run before picking out Darren Cave via a perfectly-flighted long pass.

Cave made good ground himself, then supplied Pienaar with a well-timed ball just outside the 22, and the Springbok showed his chasers a clean pair of heels for the first try of the night, converted by Paddy Jackson.

Young Stuart McCloskey came on to claim his first cap on 21 minutes - replacing Luke Marshall after the centre had suffered a knock - but the Ulster machine rolled on unaffected by the change in personnel.

Ravenhill was soon celebrating try number two, grounded in the corner by Bowe in the 24th minute after a smart pass from Pienaar off an Ulster lineout.

Jackson’s conversion put Ulster 17 points to the good, and the out-half was soon adding his third after Bowe had once again carved the Dragons defence apart thanks to quick lineout ball, the only difference this time being the direction of his run - towards the posts rather than the corner flag.

With both McCloskey and Scholes increasingly enterprising as the half progressed, Ulster exuded a confidence and cohesion that had been lacking six days earlier in Treviso.

Once the Dragons went down to 14 men in the 33rd minute with prop Owen Evans sent to the sin-bin, it was no surprise that the bonus point try arrived just moments later.

A series of four infringements by the Dragons at the scrum deep in their own 22 - the third of which had seen Evans get his marching orders - left referee Lloyd Linton with no option but to award the penalty try, converted once more by Jackson.

The visitors' bad run of fortune continued when Rhys Jones' well-struck penalty from distance hit the upright and rebounded into Ulster hands five minutes before the break, although the full-back was able to get his team on the scoresheet courtesy of a 15-metre penalty on 40 minutes.

Scholes and Payne combined well on the left wing as Ulster, who were 31-3 ahead at the break, threatened a fifth try within two minutes of the restart. Although the full-back was nudged into touch just metres short of the line, Scholes was instrumental in Doyle’s score in the very next attack.

The youngster showed strength and guile to force an opening through the heart of the Dragons defence, collapsing under the tackle an arm's length from the try-line but releasing the ball rapidly enough to keep the move alive. Ulster recycled swiftly to the left wing where Doyle was one of several men over, and gratefully accepted the chance to score his second try in Ulster colours.

Following Jackson’s conversion Ulster refused to let up, and although half-time replacement David McIlwaine had a 55th minute try disallowed for a marginal forward pass from Payne, a fine kick and chase from Cave down the left wing just before the hour mark kept Ravenhill rocking.

Dragons winger Ross Wardle grabbed a consolation score in the 62nd minute courtesy of a swift passing move into the left corner.

However, Ulster responded with a virtuoso run from Payne which - had Doyle been able to hold on to the full-back's slightly overcooked final pass - would certainly have culminated in the slickest try of the night.

The game inevitably petered out in the final 10 minutes, although Ulster still had enough left in the tank to come close once more in the final move of the game, Iain Henderson showing impressive strength to barge his way through half-a-dozen tackles before getting crowded out metres from home.

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