No bonus but Connacht get back on the horse
Connacht 30 Dragons 11:Connacht head to Harlequins this week with some much-needed momentum having disposed of the Dragons to end a four-run losing streak in the RaboDirect Pro 12.
On a night conducive to playing rugby at the Sportsground, Connacht delivered. That they spurned a real chance to claim a rare try bonus point was the only dampener, but coach Eric Elwood was satisfied to see his players turn possession into points after festive failings over Munster and Leinster.
“We are back on the horse, and it sets us up for our visit to Harlequins,” he said. “If someone had said before he game that was going to be the score, 30-6 with the last play of the game, we would have taken it. Yeah, a little bit disappointed , but the good thing is we got the victory at home, it was a great crowd, and when you have nights like that, you can play ball.”
With a 20-3 lead at the break, Connacht had bagged their third try five minutes into the second half, but despite carving out two clear scoring chances in the final 15 minutes, they could not wrap up their second only try bonus this season.
Connacht’s intensity was demonstrated from the kick-off when Dannie Poolman shunted his fellow South African winger Tonderai Chavhanga into touch just metres from the Dragons’ line, and within eight minutes outhalf Dan Parks had struck two penalties – the first a difficult sideline kick after just three minutes.
With Mike McCarthy controlling the pack, the backs continued to force gaps through the Dragons’ cover, and when Fetu’u Vainikolos surging break forced two five-metre scrums, the under-pressure Dragons conceded a penalty try. Parks added the extras for a 13-0 lead. By the 26th minute Connacht had added a second try when, from an incisive break, Dave McSharry found number eight George Naoupu in support, who finished off before he was forced off injured.
While Tom Prydie got the Dragons on the scoreboard with a penalty both sides of the break, Connacht’s best attacking try came from Poolman who finished off an expansive move involving Parks, Robbie Henshaw and McSharry. A Parks conversion stretched the lead to 27-6. Replacement Jonathan Evans’ consolation try at the death was of little consequence for a Connacht outfit heading to Harlequins with a much-needed win under their belt.
CONNACHT: R Henshaw; D Poolman, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White; M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, E McKeon, G Naoupu. Replacements: E Grace for Naoupu (31 mins), P O’Donohoe for Marmion (45 mins), B Wilkinson for Buckley, R Loughney for White (both 52 mins), E Reynecke for Harris-Wright, T OHalloran for Griffin and M Kearney for Swift (all 62 mins), M Jarvis for Parks (70 mins).
DRAGONS: H Amos; T Prydie, A Hughes, A Tuilagi, T Chavhanga; L Robling, W Evans; P Price, S Parry, N Buck; A Coombs; R Sidoli; L Evans, N Cudd, T Faletau. Replacements: H Gustafson for Parry (45 mins), T Brown for Evans (52 mins), J Dixon for Chavhanga (54m), O Evans for Price, D Way for Buck, A Jones for Sidolo (all 59 mins), A Smith for Robling (67 mins), J Evans for Brown (72 mins).
Referee: A MacMenemy (SRU).