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Pienaar showed class to inspire Ulster to victory, says captain Herring

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 03/09/2016

On the mark: Ruan Pienaar races through to score a try in Ulster’s victory over Gwent Newport Dragons at Kingspan Stadium last night
On the mark: Ruan Pienaar races through to score a try in Ulster’s victory over Gwent Newport Dragons at Kingspan Stadium last night

Ulster captain Rob Herring hailed the contribution of man-of-the-match Ruan Pienaar after the Springbok put a turbulent week behind him to lead the province to a 29-8 win over Dragons on the opening night of the PRO12.

At the end of a week when it was announced he would have to end his Ulster career following this season, Pienaar scored a try and created one of two scores for Rob Lyttle.

Jacob Stockdale and Rob Herring also crossed for the hosts who ran out bonus point winners.

Even in testing circumstances, Herring always thought his compatriot would show his considerable quality.

"He showed what a class player he is out there. I thought he was brilliant," he said.

"He's a brilliant player."

While the final score was comfortable, Ulster overcame a sluggish start to put away their Welsh visitors and had trailed 8-0 after Dragons struck first with a penalty and a try.

There was a further struggle to seal the bonus-point with a 20 minute spell of resistance between the third and fourth scores.

Forwards coach Allen Clarke was pleased with the fortitude shown to overcome the season's first challenge.

"It was really important for us to start well in front of our own fans, get a win and build ourselves a platform to get the bonus-point," he said.

“We showed a lot of character to come back from 8-0 down and there was some real leadership from Rob.

“We took our chances and dominated the second-half after getting ourselves into a decent position at half-time.

“There was a lot of good but some bad with that. A mixed bag, I suppose.

“Winning with a bonus is always a positive. I thought our forwards really stood up to the challenge.

“Our defence was good after their try and the physicality and decision making in the second-half was great.

“The character, the desire, the maturity not to panic and come back into it was all very pleasing.

“There’s positives but a number of work-ons too and we’ll look ahead to Treviso next week.”

For that trip to Italy next week, Ulster will be monitoring a number of injuries sustained last night.

After returning from Ireland duty, and in front of a watching Joe Schmidt, Craig Gilroy left the field with an apparent knock to the head just 15 minutes into his first game since June. Paul Marshall also sustained a blow to the ribs in his late cameo.He grew into the game and helped secure the turnover which led to Rob Lyttle’s first-half try.

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