Bowe back with a bang

Fri, 28 Feb 2014 22:06
Large tommy bowe ulster

Ulster boosted their chances of a top four Pro12 finish with a scintillating 38-8 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill.

Ulster boosted their chances of a top four Pro12 finish with a scintillating 38-8 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill.

The Irish side ran in five tries through Ruan Pienaar, Sean Doyle and a penalty score, with Tommy Bowe also grabbing two on his first start on the wing for three months.

* In the other match on Friday Edinburgh won the tightest of contests against the Ospreys 31-25 with the decisive contribution coming from Grayson Hart.

We look at Friday's matches!

Ulster 38-6 Newport Gwent Dragons

Ulster boosted their chances of a top four Pro12 finish with a scintillating 38-8 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill.

The Irish side ran in five tries through Ruan Pienaar, Sean Doyle and a penalty score, with Tommy Bowe also grabbing two on his first start on the wing for three months.

The Dragons went behind early on and never threatened a first victory at Ravenhill since 2008.

With Paddy Jackson released by Ireland and starting at flyhalf, Ruan Pienaar moved back to his more familiar position at scrumhalf and scored the first points of the evening.

His third minute penalty from distance made it 3-0 to the home side, and it was the experienced South African international who went on to score the first try of the match.

Jared Payne claimed the high ball confidently and opened up the pitch with a delightful pass to Darren Cave who broke clear and set up Pienaar to run in from 20 metres, giving Jackson the simplest of conversions and on 16 minutes it was 10-0 to Ulster.

Ulster continued to look the more likely to score with the returning Tommy Bowe, back on the wing for the first time since November after recovering from a groin problem, looking threatening.

They suffered a blow midway through the first half, however, when centre Luke Marshall had to be replaced after picking up a knock, with Stuart McCloskey coming on for the 21-year-old's first senior appearance.

It didn't knock them out of their stride, Bowe marking his return with the second try of the night on 24 minutes, taking the ball from Pienaar and slicing through the Dragons defence.

Jackson made short work of the conversion to make it 17-0, and Ulster looked well on their way to a first bonus point try in the Pro12 since round eight.

Bowe seemed determined to make it a night to remember for the Ulster fans, as he dived over for his second and Ulster's third try just two minutes later. Jackson added the extras and the Dragons were staring defeat in the face after only 28 minutes.

The pressure was all too much for the visitors who lost loose head prop Owen Evans to the sin bin after one infringement too many for referee Lloyd Linton's liking.

With the offence deep in Dragons territory Linton pointed to the posts, awarding Ulster a penalty try that Jackson converted to wrap up the bonus point before half-time.

The Dragons had a chance to get some points on the board before the interval but Rhys Jones struck a 35th minute penalty against the post.

The fullback made partial amends on the stroke of half-time with his second shot at the sticks but as the sides trooped off the home side were secure with a 28-point advantage.

And things went from bad to worse for the visitors six minutes after the break when flanker Sean Doyle ran in for Ulster's fifth try, Jackson again successful with his shot at goal.

Now trailing 38-3 the Dragons struggled to conjure anything that suggested a comeback and rarely looked like improving on their away record in the Pro12.

David McIlwaine, on as a replacement for Bowe, looked to have grabbed Ulster's sixth try only for the score to be ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.

With the game entering it's final quarter and both sides ringing the changes wing Ross Wardle pulled a try back for the Dragons, but Jones was wayward with the conversion and it stayed 38-8.

And it remained that way as Ulster solidified their top four position, extending their unbeaten run at Ravenhill in the Pro12, which now stretches back to September 13.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Bowe 2, Pienaar, Doyle, Penalty try
Cons: Jackson 5
Pen: Pienaar

For Newport Gwent Dragons:
Pen: Jones

Yellow card:  Owen A Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons, 33)

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Stuart McCloskey, 23 David McIlwaine.

Dragons: 15 Rhys Jones, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith (captain), 11 Ross Wardle, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Bruce Douglas, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Williams, 17 Hugh Gustafson, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Jack Dixon.

Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Edinburgh 31-25 Ospreys

Edinburgh Rugby won the tightest of contests against the Ospreys 31-25 with the decisive contribution coming from Grayson Hart.

The Kiwi scrum-half's quick-thinking was too much for the visitors, who were caught napping twice as Hart broke from the back of the maul to scorch over the line, centre Sam Beard also touching down for the home side.

Dan Biggar kept the Ospreys in the hunt until the final seconds, while wing Jeff Hassler also scored two opportunistic tries to kept Edinburgh on their toes.

But the reliable boot of South African fullback Carl Bezuidenhout ensured Edinburgh were never headed, securing their first win in four with a 16-point haul of his own.

Edinburgh looked lively from the start, winning a penalty after Dougie Fife was taken out in the air and kicking upfield only for Geoff Cross' offload to be adjudged forward in a promising position.

But it was the visitors who got the first points on the board, a slick passing move and some incisive offloading buying wing Hassler the room to scorch over.

Biggar's conversion drifted wide as the Ospreys took a 5-0 lead on six minutes, with the Welsh side hoping to claim a first Pro12 win in Scotland since February 2012.

The lead didn't last long, prop Wicus Blaauw winning a scrum penalty that Edinburgh kicked upfield for a line out on the ten-metre line.

From the set piece the Edinburgh pack found some momentum and drove forward to the 22 where scrum-half Hart took control, breaking away with lightning speed to level the scores.

Bezuidenhout added the extras to give the home side the lead and Edinburgh continued to press, winning another penalty at scrum time. Bezuidenhout stepped up to send over a booming penalty on 15 minutes and increase Edinburgh's lead to 10-5.

The Ospreys fought back, camping in the Edinburgh half, but repeated penalties kicked to the corner failed to force a breach in the home side's defence.

And on 26 minutes they extended their lead further, Jack Cuthbert leading a great breakout from defence. He danced past his man, fending off another would-be tackler and slipped the ball to centre Beard who ran a lovely line in support to outpace the defence and touch down in the corner.

Bezuidenhout's conversion from the touchline came off the post, and 13 minutes from the break Edinburgh led 15-5.

Keeping the Ospreys at bay at the other end was proving tough, however, with Geoff Cross sent to the sin bin for not releasing in the tackle. Biggar sent the resulting penalty through the posts to reduce the deficit to 15-8 with ten minutes to the interval.

Edinburgh looked to have the edge on their opponents up front despite being a man light, and six minutes before the break it was Hart to the fore again.

The forwards battered their way downfield from where Hart caught the Ospreys defence napping again to sneak over the line. Bezuidenhout's conversion from out wide this time found its mark and it was 22-8 with four minutes to the break.

Edinburgh did cough up a penalty at the scrum, which Biggar converted to reduce the deficit by three points before the sides disappeared down the tunnel for half-time.

It was the Ospreys who drew first blood upon the restart, Biggar taking advantage of another infringement at the breakdown to slot a penalty and make it 22-14.

And they continued to press, forcing another three-pointer in the tackle and Biggar made it a five-point game with 26 minutes still left to play. But the boot of Bezuidenhout knocked over a penalty for the home side to give Edinburgh a little breathing space on 58 minutes.

And just three minutes later that was gobbled up by Hassler who raced onto a grubber kick and dived over the line, with the try awarded after a long hard look from the TMO. Biggar's conversion was wayward and with a quarter of the game to go there were only three points in it.

Another booming Bezuidenhout penalty restored the six-point gap and then Andries Strauss nearly sealed it for Edinburgh, only to be pulled down just inches from the try line.

Ashley Beck was sent to the sin bin for his part in stopping Strauss barrelling forward, and Bezuidenhout made no mistake with the resulting penalty to increase the lead to 31-22 with time running out.

But seconds later Ollie Atkins was also sent to cool his heels on the side of the pitch and Biggar's penalty brought the Ospreys back into contention.

Yet despite their efforts the Welsh side couldn't force their way past Edinburgh and had to settle for a losing bonus point on the night, the home side arresting their recent slump in form with a first win in four Pro12 games.

The scorers:

For Edinburgh:
Hart 2, Beard
Cons: Bezuidenhout 2
Pens: Bezuidenhout 4

For Ospreys:
Hassler 2
Pens: Biggar 5

Yellow cards: Geoff Cross (Edinburgh, 30), Ashley Beck (Ospreys, 76), Ollie Atkins (Edinburgh, 79)

Edinburgh: 15 Carl Bezuidenhout, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Mike Coman (captain), 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Alex Allan, 18 WP Nel, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Ben Atiga, 23 Joaquin Dominguez.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Jonathan Spratt (captain), 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Lewis, 5 James King, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Dan Suter, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Joe Rees, 19 Dan Baker, 20 Ryan Jones, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Aisea Natoga.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: James Matthew (Scotland), Stephen Ward (Scotland)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

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