12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Jason Tovey was once again Ulster's nemesis. In 2009 he scored 23 of the Dragons 26 points as they beat Ulster and tonight he scored all his side's points with four penalties and a drop goal.
The Dragons had the first opportunity to open the scoring when Ulster captain Johann Muller was punished for coming in at the wrong side of a ruck, but Tovey dragged his penalty attempt wide.
Tovey, returning to Rodney Parade after a twelve-month spell at the Cardiff Blues, did break the deadlock with a sweetly-struck drop goal in the ninth minute after the home pack had worked the ball through a series of phases.
Ulster levelled on 13 minutes following a powerful scrum on the Dragons 22 which resulted in a penalty and Ireland out-half Paddy Jackson slotted over the resulting kick.
Tovey restored the Dragons' lead two minutes later with a penalty after prop Callum Black was punished for holding on.
Ulster took the lead on 17 minutes when they opted to kick a penalty for touch. From the lineout they executed a perfect catch and drive and number 8 Roger Wilson peeled of the back and powered over from close range, but Jackson failed with the conversion attempt.
The province's powerful scrum earned another penalty shot soon after, however Jackson just pushed his kick wide of the posts.
Ulster had a lucky escape following an overthrown lineout, Dragons scrum half Richie Rees seized the ball and made a sniping break and although Jack Dixon drove at the defence, Ulster managed to force a turnover.
Jackson wasted another opportunity to extend the lead when he missed a penalty which was earned by another imposing scrum.
Tovey had the chance to put the Dragons in front at the break after David McIlwaine was caught offside, but the former Wales Under-20 out-half was off target and Ulster went in 8-6 up at half-time.
Tovey got the first points of the second half with a 49th minute penalty after Muller went off his feet at the breakdown.
Ulster nearly created a second try when Wilson tidied up a loose scrum, he fed Robbie Diack who gave it to Paul Marshall. The busy scrum half nipped into the 22 and from quick recycled ball Chris Farrell's cross-field kick just eluded Andrew Trimble as it went into touch.
Tom Court replaced Ricky Lutton in the Ulster from row but conceded a penalty at his first scrum for taking it down and Tovey extended the Dragons' lead with a long range kick on 59 minutes.
Ulster's replacement scrum half Ian Porter nearly produced a try with a great break but Tovey's tackle was enough to up end him on the Dragons 22.
Tovey's fourth penalty on 70 minutes widened the margin toseven points after the Ulstermen failed to roll away from the tackle.
Mark Anscombe's charges were camped on the Dragons line following another driving maul. They worked the ball through 10 phases but the Dragons defence held firm and forced the mistake.
Tovey missed with a drop goal and from the restart Ulster tried to run it from their own 22, but the game ended with a forward pass.
Speaking after the game, Ulster boss Anscombe said: "We were poor , we weren't composed in our decision-making and we panicked a little bit. That, combined with an inexperienced referee (Italian Claudio Blessano), combined to frustrate the boys.
"The Dragons played with spirit which we didn't have. I didn't think we were very good at all in an attacking sense."
|Newport Gwent Dragons Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|