ULSTER (31) 38
- Tries: Pienaar, Bowe 2, Penalty, Doyle
- Cons: Jackson 5
- Pens: Pienaar
Dragons (3) 8
- Tries: Wardle
- Pens: R Jones
Tommy Bowe advanced his claims for a place in Ireland's remaining Six Nations games as he notched two superb tries in Ulster's comfortable Pro12 over the Dragons at Ravenhill.
After Ruan Pienaar's opening try, Bowe showed pace and strength to notch two tries minutes before half-time.
A penalty try sealed Ulster's bonus point before Sean Doyle continued the home scoring after the break.
Ross Wardle's second-half try was little consolation for the visitors.
The Dragons took to the field after the announcement earlier on Friday that
head coach Darren Edwards had left the club with immediate effect.
Pienaar kicked Ulster into a third-minute lead with a penalty from just inside his own half.
Before Ulster cut loose, the Dragons did squander a great chance of their own as Jevon Groves broke through a big gap in the home team's defence but was unable to find Richie Rees.
Within three minutes, Ulster were celebrating their first try as Jared Payne's looping pass found man of the match Darren Cave, who ran on 30 yards before releasing Pienaar to dive over the line.
After Paddy Jackson knocked over what was to prove his first of four opening-half conversions, Ulster did lose Luke Marshall with Stuart McCloskey introduced after the Ireland centre had sustained a bang to the head in a ruck.
Comeback man Bowe then produced a remarkable four minutes of rugby to indicate that he may yet have a part to play in this season's Six Nations.
Firstly, the Monaghan man produced stunning pace to burst past Groves and score after Pienaar's perfectly-weighted pass following Johann Muller's tap-back at a line-out just outside the Dragons 22.
Bowe, who hadn't played since
Ireland's defeat by the All Blacks in late November,
demonstrated his remarkable sharpness again three minutes later as he brushed off Richie Rees and Rhys Jones before unleashing another lightning burst to the posts.
While he was replaced at half-time, Bowe's display is likely to give Ireland coach Joe Schmidt plenty to ponder ahead of next week's contest against Italy and the concluding game in Paris a week later.
Jackson's third conversion increased Ulster's lead to 24-0 and the bonus point was secured by the 33rd minute as referee Lloyd Linton awarded a penalty try after the Dragons scrum had transgressed on three straight occasions just short of their own line.
The second scrum infringement had led to prop Owen Evans being ordered to the sin-bin.
After leading 31-0 at the break, Ulster continued to dominate as flanker Doyle ran in try number five after wing Rory Scholes had been close to notching the score on his first start for the Irish province.
With the victory secured, Ulster's performance did begin to dip and Dragons wing Wardle did notch a try in the 63rd minute after the home defence had been stretched.
J Payne, T Bowe, D Cave, L Marshall, R Scholes, P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring, R Lutton, J Muller (capt), I Henderson, R Diack, S Doyle, R Wilson.
N Annett for Herring 72, T Court for Black 62, A Macklin for Lutton 67, L Stevenson for Pienaar 71, M McComish for Jackson 63, P Marshall for Scholes 54, S McCloskey for Marshall 21, D McIlwaine for Bowe half-time.
Newport Gwent Dragons:
Rhys Jones; Matthew Pewtner, Pat Leach, Ashley Smith (capt), Ross Wardle; Steffan Jones, Richie Rees; Owen Evans, T Rhys Thomas, Bruce Douglas, Matthew Screech, Cory Hill, Jevon Groves, Lewis Evans, Nic Cudd.
Nathan Williams for Groves 33, Groves on for Williams 43 Hugh Gustafson for T Rhys Thomas 59, Duncan Bell for Douglas 54, Rob Sidoli for Screech 59; Ieuan Jones for Groves 63, Wayne Evans for Rees 47, Jack Dixon for Smith 63, Lew Robling for Stefan Jones 59, Nathan Williams for Owen Evans 63.
Lloyd Linton (SRU)
Nigel Correll, John Carvill (both IRFU)
Gordon Black (IRFU)
Peter Ferguson (IRFU)