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Anger as Ulster fall foul of new rule

By Michael Sadlier

A controversial decision piled the agony on Ulster last night as they fell to yet another PRO12 defeat, this time at a rain-drenched Scarlets in Llanelli.

Ulster director of Rugby Les Kiss was left deeply unhappy and supporters were fuming after the Welsh side won 16-13 thanks to Italian referee Marius Mitrea's awarding of a penalty try in the 60th minute.

Ulster back-rower Sean Reidy was adjudged to have made a high tackle, preventing a score and was sin-binned.

The referee, after consulting with the video referee and invoking the newly introduced zero tolerance high tackling laws, awarded a penalty try to the Scarlets and sin-binned Reidy which saw Ulster lose their 13-9 lead and, from there, there was no way back.

Afterwards, Kiss, whose sixth-placed side are now struggling to stay in touch with the top four, couldn't hide his frustration at the decision.

"It's disappointing," said Kiss. "But that's the new world we're living in and we've got to find a way to live with it."

"It's right to have an intention to ensure that safety is paramount for the players," Kiss added while refusing to blame the referee for having to abide by the new laws.

"Working our way through the right interpretation and implementation of it is something we have to get to.

"There's no grudge or whinge against Marius Mitrea at all, it's just the nature of the beast at this stage."

The defeat - Ulster's seventh in their last 11 games - now piles the pressure on them as they enter the two final rounds of European action where an early exit looks on the cards.

Even though injury-ravaged Ulster had Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson all in the side, they couldn't replicate the opening 40 minutes when they led 13-9 after a Jacob Stockdale try along with a conversion and two penalties from Jackson.

"It's a game we lost and I thought we'd have had better return from it if things had gone our way," stated the Australian who chose to rest Charles Piutau for the game.

"I thought we were superb in the first half and in control of the game but with our retention of the ball we probably weren't as clinical in the second half.

"We gave them a bit of life and they got traction in the game but the decisions we couldn't control and that's what it is."

Meanwhile, Newport Gwent Dragons grabbed their first win of 2017 and their fourth of the Pro12 season as they comfortably beat an average Benetton Treviso 26-8 at Rodney Parade.

Fly-half Angus O'Brien was the main man for the Welsh region as he landed 14 points via three penalties, a conversion and a drop goal.

Scrum-half Sarel Pretorious got a first-half try for the home side, wth skipper Lewis Evans getting another after the break, the latter converted by replacement stand-off Dorian Jones.

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