Pro14: Ulster v DragonsUlster (33) 52Tries: McCloskey, Nelson, Penalty, Timoney 2, Herbst, Stockdale, Shanahan Cons: Nelson 5, HerronDragons (13) 25Tries: Buckley, Blacker, Talbot-Davies Cons: Jones, O’Brien Pens: Jones 2
Ulster maintained their winning start to the Pro14 as they earned a thumping eight-try win over the Dragons.
Bernard Jackman made 13 Dragons changes from the win over Connacht and his side were overwhelmed at Kingspan Stadium.
Tries from Stuart McCloskey, Peter Nelson, Nick Timoney and a penalty try quickly secured Ulster’s bonus point.
Timoney, Wiehahn Herbst, Jacob Stockdale and Dave Shanahan added further tries as Rhys Buckley, Dane Blacker and Will Talbot-Davies replied.
Ulster could have scored several more tries as the second-half touchdowns from replacements Blacker and Talbot-Davies gave the scoreline a better look for the Dragons.
With Leinster surprising losing against the Cheetahs in South Africa, Ulster’s win moves them to the top of Conference B in the new-format competition.
Ulster quickly take control at Kingspan
Charles Piutau’s strong running helped quickly take the game out of the Dragons’ reach as the home side were able to punch holes in the opposition defence with ease.
Rodney Ah You’s ferocious appetite for work was also a feature of Ulster’s display while former Blackrock College student Timoney’s two tries came in only his second appearance for the province.
Piutau’s burst helped set up McCloskey’s third-minute opener and after Dorian Jones’ penalty reply, Nelson punished more woeful Dragons defending to increase Ulster’s advantage to 12-3 by the 12th minute.
A line-out maul quickly yielded Ulster’s penalty try and with Lloyd Fairbrother sin-binned following the third touchdown, another Piutau charge set up Timoney’s bonus-point-clinching try by the 26th minute.
With Ah You temporarily off after being cut, his replacement Herbst notched Ulster’s fifth try before Buckley replied just before the interval after a Dragons line-out maul.
Palamo howler adds to Dragons woe
A howler by Dragons debutant Thretton Palamo gifted Ulster’s sixth try to Stockdale shortly after the resumption as the USA international failed to ground a chip ahead by Tommy Bowe, allowing the young Ireland wing a simple score.
After Timoney notched his second try in the 49th minute, the edge inevitably went off Ulster’s display as replacements Blacker and Talbot-Davies scored two of the game’s final three touchdowns.
Replacement scrum-half Shanahan completed Ulster’s scoring haul as the Irish province moved three points ahead of Leinster in Conference B.
To cap a successful night for Les Kiss’ side, British & Irish Lions player Iain Henderson came off the bench late on to make his first appearance of the season.
Ulster: C Piutau; T Bowe, D Cave, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; P Nelson, P Marshall; K McCall, R Herring, R Ah You; R Diack, A O’Connor; C Ross, C Henry (capt), N Timoney. Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, W Herbst, I Henderson, M Rea, D Shanahan, B Herron, R Lyttle.
Dragons: C Meyer; A Hughes, T Palamo, P Howard, G Gasson; D Jones, O Leonard; T Davies, G Ellis, L Fairbrother; M Screech, R Landman; M Williams, O Griffiths (capt), R Blake. Replacements: R Buckley, P Price, B Harris, J Davies, L Greggains, D Blacker, A O’Brien, W Talbot-Davies.