United Rugby Championship: Ulster and Connacht overcome Cardiff and Dragons respectively on Welsh soil

Nathan Doak for Ulster Credit: Alamy
Nathan Doak for Ulster Credit: Alamy

Ulster claimed a 42-20 bonus-point victory over Cardiff in their United Rugby Championship clash at the Arms Park on Saturday.

Scores from Stewart Moore, Jacob Stockdale, Nathan Doak, Billy Burns and Tom Stewart (2) were all converted by Doak in an impressive result.

Owen Lane (2) and Aled Summerhill crossed for Cardiff, with Jarrod Evans adding five points off the tee, as the Welsh region drop to tenth place.

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Dan McFarland’s men got off to a dream start when centre Moore sliced clean through the fragile home defence in only the second minute and they finally reached their goal of four tries in the 52nd minute when Burns raced between two defenders on the home line to score after constant pressure from the forwards.

In between those two scores the Irish side had flexed their muscles to such good effect that barring a moment of magic from Samoan centre Rey Lee-Lo, playing his 150th game for Cardiff, they were under little or no threat.

That Lee-Lo moment came after eight minutes when he bounced off two would-be tacklers and somehow released a one-handed pass out of the back of his hand. That fed Lane who ran in unopposed.

Moments later Evans landed a penalty and somehow Cardiff led 8-7. Not for long, though.

Some magic up to the left touchline from Stockdale, with a trademark chip and chase, saw him crash over in the corner.

Ulster scrum-half Doak, who managed to convert all six tries, sniped over for one of his own to make it three tries in 25 minutes.

The only surprise was they did not get a fourth just before the break after ignoring an attempt at goal to kick to the corner.

Cardiff became increasingly passive in contact and the heavy carries from the Ulsterman eventually battered the home team into submission.

Once Burns had bagged the bonus there was time for replacement Stewart to enjoy himself with two tries – the first only a minute after he had taken to the field.

Cardiff rallied late on with a second try for Lane, set-up once again by Lee-Lo and then replacement wing Summerhill went on a solo run to score after his fellow wing Jason Harries had intercepted in his own 22 and created a rare attacking chance for the Blue and Blacks.

Evans converted the latter, but it was much too little too late.

Connacht edge Dragons on the road

Elsewhere, Connacht hung on to seal a 22-20 triumph away to the Dragons in a tight affair as the Irish province climb to eighth in the URC table.

The defeat was rough justice on battling Dragons, who had to play for over 50 minutes with 14 men after their lock Matthew Screech was sent off a high challenge.

Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler and Dave Heffernan scored Connacht’s tries with David Hawkshaw converting two and adding a penalty.

Aaron Wainwright and Jarrod Rosser crossed for Dragons with Will Reed kicking two penalties and two conversions as their run of successive league defeats extended to eight.

Connacht suffered a big blow when captain Jack Carty withdrew from the starting line-up but they should have overcome that setback to take an early lead.

Wing Shayne Bolton powered past some weak Dragons tackling to set up a golden opportunity but Prendergast was unable to take the scoring pass.

Connacht still picked up the first score when Hawkshaw kicked a ninth-minute penalty, but the home side immediately responded with an excellent try.

Bradley Roberts got the ball rolling with an initial burst before feeding Ashton Hewitt, who sped into the opposition 22, from where the ball was recycled for Wainwright to power over.

That try came against the run of the play and it therefore came as no surprise when the visitors regained the lead when good ball retention ended with Prendergast making amends for his earlier error by taking the final pass.

Reed brought the scores level with a long-range penalty before the Dragons disastrously lost two players in the same passage of play.

First Max Clark was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate offside before TMO replays showed a high challenge from Screech on Conor Oliver, which resulted in a red card for the lock.

Dragons were still level at the interval and remarkably took the lead after the restart when Rosser intercepted a telegraphed pass to run 80 metres to score, with Reed slotting over the conversion before adding a penalty.

Clark returned in time to see Connacht score their second try when replacement Butler crashed over from close range before the visitors made their numerical advantage when Heffernan repeated the dose.

Bolton was yellow-carded when he took out Angus O’Brien in the air and a late drop-goal attempt from Sam Davies rebounded back off a post as Connacht held on.

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