DRAGONS EDGE PAST CONNACHT
By David Wilkinson
The Dragons welcomed Irish rivals Connacht to Rodney Parade on Thursday night, the Dragons first appearance at home since their win over Munster in November.
The Men of Gwent were dealt a blow with the loss of Danny Lydiate and Wayne Evans due to injury, with young scrum-half Jonathan Evans starting in his place, Luke Charteris had to be content with a place on the bench.
Connacht started brightly in the opening minutes putting a number of phases together and testing the Dragons defence. It was the home side however, who were first to notch up the first score of the game through a fine try scored powerful wing Aled Brew.
Brew took the ball from Gavin Thomas before linking with centre Tom Riley on the left hand touch line. Some crisp hands saw Riley give the return pass to Brew sending the powerful winger in for a try. Tovey converted making the scores 7- 0 after just three minutes.
The Dragons continued to press but Tovey missed with a long range effort before sending a relatively simple kick wide from just in front of the posts. The Dragons were guilty of wasting chances and a number of errors allowed Connacht back in to the game.
The visitors scored their first points of the game as visiting full-back Ian Keatley notched a penalty attempt mid way through the half. The Dragons failed to convert a number of promising opportunities but there was controversy when Veteran flanker Gavin Thomas was denied a clear run to the line following an interception as was adjudged to have been off-side at the line out.
Moments later Connacht scored a try of their own through Troy Nathan, it was no more than the visitors deserved following some fine attacking play from Nathan and centre Eoin Griffin. This left the scores at 7-10 in Connacht’s favour.
With five minutes to go before half time the Dragons regained the lead, Will Harries started the move before releasing Brew who was once again fundamental in the Dragons attacking play. Brew surged up field before sending Riley in for his second touch- down of the season, Tovey converted, 14-13.
The Dragons were penalised just before halftime and Keatley added to his earlier successes meaning there was just a point in it going into the break.
The second half was a similar affair to the first with the Dragons guilty of making careless mistakes at vital moments. It was the visitors who regained the lead when Keatley continued his flawless kicking performance with another penalty making the scores 14-16.
The Dragons pressed once again and were rewarded with a penalty which Tovey slotted after visiting hooker Sean Cronin was penalised for not releasing the ball at the ruck.
Both sides had chances to add to their tally but a combination of good defence and poor game management proved costly. Connacht saw a late drop-goal attempt charged down in a tense closing period while the Dragons pressed for a try to seal the game. The try didn’t come but the Dragons held on to claim a much needed win.
Dragons (14) 17
Tries: Brew, Riley Con: Tovey 2 Pens: Tovey
Connacht (13) 16
Tries: Nathan Con: Keatley Pens: Keatley 3
Dragons: Will Harries; Adam Hughes, Tom Riley, Ashley Smith, Aled Brew; Jason Tovey, Jon Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Tom Willis (capt), Ben Castle, Adam Jones, Rob Sidoli, Lewis Evans, Gavin Thomas, Toby Faletau.
Replacements: Phil Price for Hugh Gustafson (52), Luke Charteris for Adam Jones (55), Steve Jones for Tom Willis (63), Andrew Coombs for Lewis Evans (68) Not used: Pat Palmer, Phil Price, Matt Jones, Mike Petri, Pat Leach.
Connacht: Ian Keatley; Troy Nathan, Eoin Griffin, Keith Matthews (capt), Fionn Carr; Miah Nikora, Cillian Willis; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Michael McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O'Connor, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Brian Tuohy for Troy Nathan (41), Frank Murphy for Cillian Willis (48), Mike McComish for Eoin McKeon (54), Adrian Flavin for Sean Cronin (64), Rodney Ah You for Jamie Hagan (67), Niva Ta'auso for Keith Matthews (69), Bernie Upton for Mike McCarthy (78) Not used: Dylan Rogers.
Referee: Alan Lewis (IRFU).