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Ulster slay the Dragons and eye play-offs

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's play-off push gathered momentum last night with a 27-17 win away to Newport Gwent Dragons despite a red card for Rodney Ah You.

The visitors ran in three tries -Craig Gilroy, Jared Payne and John Andrew all crossed the whitewash - on a ground where they have failed to deliver in the past, with assistant coach Allen Clarke praising the character of his side.

Ah You's odd red - the card was shown after the prop turned his shoulder into the ball carrier rather than make a tackle - wasn't the only time Ulster were down to 14, with Gilroy having previously been shown yellow.

"The one thing we showed tonight was good character, strong character, especially with 14 men," said the former European Cup winning hooker.

"Winning again on the road like this, when it hasn't been the easiest ground for us, was great.

"We're satisfied with the performance even if there's a lot to improve on. It was tough.

"We started fantastically and got the score early on but we invited them back into it and it became scrappy for long periods."

"We had to dig deep with the yellow card and the red card," he added. "We're just satisfied that we got away with the 'W' at the end of the day."

The win was Ulster's sixth in a row and they now have some real momentum heading into the season's final weeks.

With only four games to go, they sit fourth in the PRO12, and as it stands would play the league leaders in an away semi-final come May.

The failure to get the bonus point however allowed fifth-placed Scarlets to narrow the gap to just three points after the Welsh region took a full haul from their visit to Edinburgh.

With Les Kiss's side having to play the league's top three before the season's end, Scarlets have by far an easier run-in, but Clarke was hardly looking at last night as a point dropped.

"It was critical we got the win," added the man who it was announced this week will join Ospreys next season.

"Obviously we would have preferred a bonus point win but you have to give a lot of credit to Dragons and how they defended their line. They were hard to crack at times."

With the opposition adept at slowing Ulster's ball, Clarke added that he was especially impressed with a couple of his back-rowers.

"I thought Sean Reidy was immense," he said. "And Iain Henderson, on the back of being one of the big performers for Ireland last week, backed it up again. He stole that critical lineout, and we got back down into their 22 and managed to put one away."

The win could still have lasting repercussions should Ulster's tight-head stocks become further depleted. While Ricky Lutton is back to fitness, Wiehahn Herbst was forced off after just 20 minutes last night, which left Rodney Ah You facing a long cameo.

With the former Connacht man unable to get through the hour before his red card, further sanction could await.

Belfast Telegraph

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