Ulster Rugby's Tommy Bowe produces stunning display against Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill Belfast
Ulster 38 Dragons 8
Published 01/03/2014 | 01:30
Well, you just knew he wasn't going to have a quiet night, didn't you? Tommy Bowe hadn't played for three months but here he was running freely again and, well, doing what he does best by scoring tries and reminding Joe Schmidt that he is back and, you never know, could be a possible option for Paris in a fortnight.
It's a bit early to say, but Ireland coach Schmidt will have been watching and must have been impressed by Bowe's condition though, of course, he will probably need a bit more game-time before anything too significant is likely to happen.
He had been involved from early on but his first try – which came after Springbok ace Ruan Pienaar had got the first touchdown – was typical Bowe.
Quick lineout ball off the top from Johann Muller saw Bowe run an inside line off Pienaar whose pass was perfect as the Ireland and Lions winger hared through the Dragons' pack to score.
Three minutes later he got on the end of an off-load and was away again, this time dotting down under the posts.
Welcome back Tommy – we've certainly missed you around the place of late.
At 24-0 after nearly as many minutes, the Dragons' challenge looked shot and with a penalty try arriving soon after, it was 31-0 with Lyn Jones' 40th minute penalty hardly putting much of a dent into Ulster's lead.
And from there, things just got better with the penalty try bringing the bonus point in just the 32nd minute.
Leading 31-3 at half-time, there was no prospect of revival for the Dragons.
While Bowe took the plaudits, there were also notably impressive performances from Ireland releases Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson.
Man of the match Darren Cave also made a significant impact as did the Ulster set-piece which had total dominance.
Mind you, it wasn't all perfect as seeing Luke Marshall leave the action early after taking a heavy blow won't have done his chances of impressing Schmidt an awful lot of good.
But back to more positive matters.
We also even had the sight of Ulster ending the game with a makeshift backline with Paul Marshall having a spell on the left wing for the excellent Rory Scholes while Sean Doyle did end out on the right and might have even got a try – all this and it seemed almost forgotten that Craig Gilroy hadn't even been included.
If Ulster coach Mark Anscombe had wanted a response to Sunday's lacklustre win at Treviso then he certainly got it last night with a bonus point also being an ideal outcome and a much needed one in the push for the PRO12 play-offs.
It had been a strange week really.
Treviso was another of those somewhat unconvincing efforts which led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth but still gathered up another four points and, thanks to results elsewhere, actually saw Ulster rise to third in the table.
Great, but then things began to get a little bit ragged.
Firstly the team's return from northern Italy was delayed at the airport, eating up valuable rest time which was meant to be spent at home on one of those uncomfortable weeks when the side has to build-in a five-day turnaround between games.
Then, midweek, we had the Nick Williams scenario and more bad vibes and confusion over just what is happening regarding his future though you can't help but feel that his wellbeing is inextricably linked to just how Ulster might fare as we get ever closer to what is called 'the business end of the season'.
Whatever way it pans out, Williams is still a valuable commodity and we can only hope that this situation is resolved for the good of all parties.
And with Ireland pressing the flesh at Newforge on Thursday – with Jackson standing in as front-line out-half again with Johnny Sexton over in Paris – at least some of the downbeat stuff from earlier in the week could be left behind.
Anyway, Ulster really needed to win and how they did, with a great performance.
And Ospreys' defeat last night away to Edinburgh did Ulster no harm either.
Unfortunately, though, they have another break now ahead of the Scarlets game on March 14 when the momentum of having another match might have been exactly what was needed.