Connacht beaten by physically superior Dragons at the Sportsground

‘They were more workmanlike and clinical and had a greater sense of game control’

Dragons’ Jonah Holmes celebrates scoring a try against Connacht. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Dragons’ Jonah Holmes celebrates scoring a try against Connacht. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Connacht 22 Dragons 35

Connacht, needing to make a home run count, were beaten by a physically superior Dragons team at the Galway Sportsground on Saturday.

“Not the team we want to be,” said Connacht coach Andy Friend, “but we have to own it. They were more workmanlike and clinical and had a greater sense of game control than we did - due credit to the Dragons, they leave here with five points.”

With consistency key for Friend’s side, this was an unwelcome turnaround from the high of last weekend’s 34-7 victory over the Bulls. The defeat may not have not been comprehensive, but Connacht came away from this round three URC fixture with a lesson in physicality.

Having narrowly lost to Leinster last week, Dean Ryan’s Dragons had a point to prove, and they did it with a dominant second half display, scoring 27 points to Connacht’s 10 - the most points the Welsh outfit has ever scored against Connacht.

Connacht had taken a 12-8 lead at the break, Jack Carty kicking all four penalties - the first gifted to the outhalf inside two minutes when the Dragons were pinged for offside. Although a second penalty nine minutes later went wide, Connacht continued to dominate possession and territory, taking advantage of playing with the sun behind them.

A third Carty effort gave the home side a 6-0 lead after 15 minutes, but the visitors began to give as good as they got. Their pack, including former Connacht lock Joe Maksymiw, was tenacious and highly efficient at the breakdown, while their backs showed sufficient enterprise to keep Connacht on their toes.

It was after a period of aerial ping-pong when the Dragons demonstrated their attacking prowess - fullback Jordan Williams delivered a perfect chip which he retrieved, and with the cover backpedaling, he found a willing Jonah Holmes who raced in on the right wing for the first try of the match after 27 minutes.

Carty restored Connacht’s lead a few minutes later when lock Will Rowlands was binned, and the Connacht outhalf added a fourth when on-loan wing Jordan Olowofela was penalised at the breakdown.

Connacht then thought they had fashioned a try - Mack Hansen was given the chance to stretch his legs late in the opening half after fullback Ben O’Donnell had tidied up loose ball. But following Hansen’s kick and chase down the right wing, dogged defence from the Dragons ensured scrumhalf Caolin Blade was held up over the line.

The home side delivered one late surge before a forward pass called time on the first half, and it was the Dragons who quickly grabbed the initiative after the break. Well skilled at the breakdown, and content to put width on the ball, Dean Ryan’s side continued to test their hosts with both backs and forwards adding pace and power to their attacks.

Within the space of five minutes they had produced two tries and taken a 12-22 lead through the dancing feet of fullback Jordan Williams and Fijian prop Mesake Doge.

Connacht’s resilience was needed at this stage and they delivered such after a penalty to touch. Ultan Dillane led the drive from his lineout win before attacking from close range. Eventually it was Hansen who delivered - Carty opting to send a long pass to the left wing who once again wove his magic to touch down.

However, a series of penalties did not help Connacht’s cause, and the Dragons took full advantage. Davies added a penalty before delivering a brilliant piece of skill to dink the ball in behind the defence, ensuring Jonah Holmes his second try and his side’s fourth as well as the bonus point.

Although Connacht scored a 71st try through Conor Fitzgerald, it was of little consolation.

Scoring sequence: 2 mins: Carty pen 3-0 13 mins: Carty pen 6-0; 17 mins: Davies pen 6-3; 26 mins: Holmes try 6-8; 30 mins: Carty pen 9-8; 33 mins: Carty pen 12-8; half-time 12-8; 48 mins: Williams try Davies con 12-15; 51 mins: Doze try, Davies con 12-22; 58 mins: Hansen try 17-22; 62 mins: Davies pen 17-25; 67 mins: Holmes try, Davies con 17-32; 72 mins: Fitzgerald try 22-32; 74 mins: Davies pen 22-35.

Connacht : T O’Halloran; B O’Donnell, T Farrell, T Daly, M Hansen; J Carty, C Blade; M Burke, D Heffernan, F Bealham; O Dowling, U Dillane; C Prendergast, J Butler (capt), P Boyle.

Replacements: L Fefita for Dowling (16 mins), J Duggan for Burke (43 mins), C Oliver for Prendergast (43 mins), S Delahunt for Heffernan (54 mins), J Aungier for Bealham and C Fitzgerald for Farrell (60 mins).

Dragons: J Williams; J Holmes, J Dixon, A Owen, J Olowofela; S Davies, R Williams; G Bateman, E Dee, M Doge; W Rowlands, J Maksymiw; H Keddie, T Basham, A Wainright.

Replacements: B Fry for Keddie (38 mins), A Seiuli for Bateman (51 mins),G Bertranoli for Williams (60 mins), A Warren for Dixon (66 mins), J Davies for Maksymiew (69 mins), T Davies for Dee (71 mins), C Coleman for Doge (71 mins). Yellow card: E Rowlands (29 mins).

Referee: M van der Westhuizen (SARU).

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