Demoralised Connacht concede record points haul at home to Dragons

Consistency continues to be an issue for Andy Friend’s side after failing to match Bulls win

 

Connacht 22 Dragons 35

Making home runs count becomes more crucial for Connacht having been beaten by a physically superior Dragons team at the Galway Sportsground on Saturday.

Somewhat unfathomably, particularly on the back of a 34-7 win over the Bulls the previous week, Connacht coach Andy Friend admits he’s still scratching his head. How, in all their games with this Welsh outfit, could Connacht leak the most points on Saturday evening? And what is more worrying is that his side still cannot find the necessary consistency in performance.

“That is the most frustrating part” says Friend. “ It’s a massive work-on. We’ve been talking about getting consistency, but it’s going to take more looking inward on ourselves to really find out. I don’t know off the top of my head.

“The other most disappointing thing was there’s an individual responsibility there to bring your A game, and if it’s not working for you, find another way to get that working. And we didn’t do that.

“It’s not the team we want to be, but we have to own it. Dragons were more workmanlike and clinical, and had a greater sense of game control than we did.”

The defeat may not have not comprehensive, but for Connacht to come away from this round three URC fixture with zero championship points, and having leaked the most points in their long history with the Dragons, is a set-back after their promising start to the Sportsground season.

Connacht had taken a 12-8 lead at the break, Jack Carty kicking four of five penalties as they dominated possession and territory, but the Dragons pack, including former Connacht lock Joe Maksymiw, was tenacious and highly efficient at the breakdown, effective in their tackling, and their backs demonstrated their attacking prowess.

When fullback Jordan Williams delivered a perfect chip and collect, a willing Jonah Holmes finished for the first of the Welsh side’s four tries.

“It was a conscious decision to take points, because we wanted to get ahead of the Dragons and felt they are not a good team chasing,” explained Friend. “That didn’t necessarily work out. We got a four-point lead at half-time, but they were patient. If we are a fast team, we need to look at what we are doing off those penalties. Are there times to slow it down, be adaptable? Tonight we didn’t get the mix right and I’ve got to wear that.”

It was not that they failed to carve opportunities, but they were successfully snuffed out by a dogged Dragons defence. Mack Hansen fashioned an opportunity, but scrumhalf Caolin Blade was held up over the line, and there was one late surge before a forward pass called time on the opening half.

Dean Ryan’s Dragons were more efficient with their 46 per cent possession, crucially taking control of the second half in which they scored 27 points. Connacht, who struggled to get a consistent foothold and made too many errors, particularly in turning over ball, could only manage 10.

Well skilled at the breakdown, and content to put width on the ball, Dean Ryan’s side continued to test the home 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 did deliver from a penalty to touch with Hansen eventually touching down, but Sam Davies added a penalty before delivering a brilliant piece of skill, ensuring Holmes claimed his second try and the bonus point. Connacht’s 71st-minute try through Conor Fitzgerald was 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; 47 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; 65 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, P Boyle.

Replacements: L Fefita for Dowling (16 mins), J Duggan for Burke and C Oliver for Prendergast (both 44 mins), S Delahunt for Heffernan and S Arnold for Daly (both 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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