Connacht bury Welsh away-day blues as they slay Dragons in Newport
Andy Friend’s side take bonus point back to Galway after running in five tries
Connacht’s Matt Healy scores a try during the Guinness Pro 14 match against the Dragons at Rodney Parade in Newport. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Dragons 14 Connacht 38
Connacht reversed a recent trend of defeats in Wales when they achieved a valuable bonus-point victory over the Dragons on Friday night.
It was a win produced by the strength of their forwards, backed by a solid kicking display from man-of-the-match Conor Fitzgerald, posting five tries in their biggest winning margin at the Newport venue.
Connacht’s superior scrum had provided a necessary platform in the face of early home pressure – Dean Ryan’s side having dominated the opening 20 minutes as they looked to maintain the momentum of last weekend’s first away win in 48 games.
They broke the stalemate in the 18th minute after Connacht conceded a close-in penalty, and from a lineout the pack made ground before Tyler Morgan cut an angled line through the cover for the opening try. Sam Davies added the conversion to give the home side a deserved lead for their early dominance.
Connacht’s riposte, however, was swift, and from their first try-scoring attack, lock Gavin Thornbury, aided by Quinn Roux, drove over for a try after 25 minutes with Fitzgerald’s conversion levelling the scores.
Within six minutes Andy Friend’s side had added another 10 points. Fitzgerald potted a penalty, before Matt Healy finished off an expansive move in the left corner, kicking ahead after a nifty pass from the Connacht outhalf.
It gave Connacht a 17-7 lead, but they were still on the back foot after John Porch, making his Pro 14 debut, was yellow carded for a late mid-air collision with Ashton Hewitt just before the half-time whistle.
But they took control, posting a third try on 50 minutes when Finlay Bealham touched down from a forward drive, while a fourth came from replacement lock Cillian Gallagher. Replacement Kieran Marmion grabbed a fifth try, with Dragons’ only second-half score an 80th minute try from Taine Basham.
DRAGONS: J Williams; O Jenkins, T Morgan, A Warren, A Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams (capt); B Harris, R Hibbard, L Brown; J Davies, M Screech; H Taylor, T Basham, L Evans.
Replacements: J Cosgrove for Harris (2 mins); H Keddie for Taylor (48); H Taylor for Evans, J Dixon for Morgan, T Knoyle for R Williams, E Shipp for Hibbard (all 57); L Fairbrother for Brown (69); M Williams for J Davies (72).
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; J Porch, K Godwin, P Robb, M Healy; C Fitzgerald, C Blade; P McAllister, T McCartney, F Bealham; G Thornbury, Q Roux; E Masterson, J Butler, P Boyle.
Replacements: S Fitzgerald for O’Halloran (7 mins); T Farrell for Healy (37); U Dillane for Thornbury, S Delahunt for McCartney, D Buckley for McAllister (all 54); D Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (56); C Gallagher for Roux and K Marmion for Blade (69).
Yellow card: J Porch (39 mins).
Referee: M Mitrea (Italy)