THERE’S no place quite like home for the Dragons after they produced a stunning performance against Guinness PRO14 title hopefuls Ulster only to be forced to settle for a share of the spoils from a Rodney Parade thriller.

The teams scored five tries apiece but it looked like the visitors were going to sneak it when former Australia superstar Christian Lealiifano sneaked over from the final play just seconds after Dragons wing Ashton Hewitt had himself looked to be the hero.

However, the fly-half was unable to convert his own effort meaning the scores were locked at 32-32 with both sides taking three points from an absolute hum-dinger.

Twice the Dragons had to show fight when under the pump, fighting back from an early onslaught to be level at half-time and then showing resolve after Ulster looked set to stretch away in the second half.

They scored five tries through lock Matthew Screech, wing Hewitt (2), hooker Liam Belcher and full-back Angus O’Brien while they showed incredible spirit, showing the guts and determination that they have lacked on the road.

Bernard Jackman was hoping for a performance to boost confidence for a December at Rodney Parade after a lop-sided fixture list that had taken them to Cardiff, Newcastle, Moscow, Swansea, Cork, Northampton and Dublin.

He got that with oodles of encouragement to take from a lively display against a side who are shoo-ins for the PRO14 play-offs. It was almost enough to claim a victory to send shockwaves around the league.

After coming so close, they now need to produce performances AND results on home soil from must-win European encounters with Enisei-STM and Newcasle plus the festive derbies with Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys.

The Dragons were stretched to the limit by injuries and Wales call-ups, meaning the management had no option but to stick with those that had failed in Leinster seven days earlier.

A response was demanded on the long-awaited return to Newport soil and Jackman & Co got it.

Inspirational flanker Ollie Griffiths was immense in attack and defence, his back row colleague James Benjamin wasn’t far behind, fly-half Gavin Henson showed some gloriously classy moments and 17-year-old scrum-half Dan Babos was sparky and spikey on his full PRO14 debut.

Up front Liam Belcher, Lloyd Fairbrother and Joe Davies put in fine shifts as deputies for Wales internationals Elliot Dee, Leon Brown and Cory Hill.

All in all it was just the tonic after some demoralising performances on the road at tough venues, providing real hope for what is to come.

The Dragons made a bright start to pose questions of the Ulster defence yet it was the visitors that struck first with a fifth-minute penalty from former Wallabies fly-half Christian Lealiifano.

The three points were an added punishment to a yellow card shown to centre Jack Dixon for a dangerous tackle on wing Lewis Ludik.

It soon became an eight-point lead with a slick move down the right ending with wing Craig Gilroy having too much pace for covering blindside Aaron Wainwright.

The Dragons were shell-shocked, looking like a side whose confidence was short after their troubles on the road.

To their great credit they gathered their composure and got back into the game with a weapon that they have had all season – the driving lineout.

An impeccable maul ended with lock Matthew Screech grounding the ball for a try that Gavin Henson converted for an 8-7 deficit on the quarter.

Suddenly the Dragons had settled and a wonderful burst from talisman flanker Ollie Griffiths from halfway into the 22 earned an offside penalty for Henson to earn the lead.

It got better with the fly-half sparking another delightful attack into the 22 that ended with Dixon putting a grubber through for Ashton Hewitt to score the second try, the winger the beneficiary of opposite number Ludik losing his footing.

Alas, the Dragons failed to deal with the restart and conceded a penalty that was kicked to the corner.

The first drive was stopped illegally, as was the second for referee Marius Mitrea to march under the sticks for an automatic seven points to level things up at 15-15.

That’s how it stayed after an entertaining first half; the Ulstermen having the better of things in the early exchanges before the spirited response of the hosts.

The second half started in the same fashion as the first for the Irish province to stretch into a 20-15 lead with scrum-half Paul Marshall reaching over from close range after a wonderful Griffiths cover tackle had dragged rampaging number eight Nick Timoney down just short.

The Ulstermen kept the hammer down and after constant pressure got their bonus in the 55th minute when Gilroy went over for a second past a stretched Dragons defence that was outdone by the classy visiting three-quarters.

Lealiifano converted superbly from the right to make it 27-15 but once against the hosts showed their mettle.

They came back and put the squeeze on with the driving lineout for try number three, hooker Liam Belcher getting the reward for hitting jumper Rynard Landman to make it 27-20 with 14 minutes to play.

And remarkably it was level again with eight minutes left with a wonder try to secure a bonus point.

Henson once again sparked an attack before Dixon put wing Jared Rosser on the charge with his offload snaffled by Angus O’Brien to cross down the left for a try that the fly-half majestically converted.

It was stunning stuff – and it got even better when Hewitt was put over in the 78th minute by O’Brien after a coast-to-coast attack sparked by Dixon.

Alas, there was still time for Ulster to deny the Dragons with Lealiifano going over after a powerful attack from a reclaimed restart.

Dragons: A O’Brien, A Hewitt, A Warren, J Dixon, J Rosser, G Henson, D Babos, B Harris (S Hobbs 28), L Belcher (E Shipp ), L Fairbrother, J Davies, M Screech (R Landman 52), A Wainwright (B Roach 51), O Griffiths (captain), J Benjamin.

Scorers: tries – M Screech, A Hewitt (2), L Belcher, A O’Brien; conversions – G Henson (2); penalty – G Henson

Ulster: C Piutau, C Gilroy, T Bowe, S McCloskey, L Ludik (A Trimble 75), C Lealiifano, P Marshall (J Cooney 52), S van der Merwe (C Black 51), J Andrew (R Best 51), R Kane (A Warwick 51), A O’Connor, K Treadwell, G Jones (C Henry 57), S Reidy, N Timoney.

Scorers: tries – C Gilroy (2), penalty, P Marshall, C Lealiifano; conversions – C Lealiifano, automatic; penalty – C Lealiifano

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)

Attendance: 4,477

Argus star man: Ollie Griffiths