Newport Gwent Dragons survive second-half fightback to beat Connacht
Published 04/11/2016 | 21:46
Newport Gwent Dragons secured only their third win in all competitions this season as they survived a second-half comeback from PRO12 champions Connacht to claim a 21-16 victory at Rodney Parade.
It was a first league win for the Welsh region in six attempts, while Connacht went home with a losing bonus point for their efforts.
Wing Ashton Hewitt scored both of the Dragons' tries while outside-half Angus O'Brien kicked 11 points via a penalty, two drop goals and a conversion.
Fly-half Jack Carty booted three Connacht penalties and converted their only try through wing Niyi Adeolokun.
The highlight of an average first half was Hewitt's electrifying touchdown that has to be in contention for the try of the season.
It came 13 minutes into the match when scrum-half Sarel Pretorious found a gap on the right and surged over the halfway line.
The ball was spun swiftly across the home back division through centres Jack Dixon and Sam Beard as the Connacht backs spread wide to cover.
Hewitt took the pass 30 metres out on the left touchline and raced past the desperate cover to run to the corner, with O'Brien converting.
O'Brien's boot increased the Dragons lead to 10 points with a straightforward 25-metre penalty but when they infringed 40 metres from their own line, Carty was on hand to get Connacht off the mark with a booming penalty.
The Dragons retaliated as they put pressure inside the Irishmen's 22 for Pretorious to send a pass into the pocket for O'Brien to land a 30-metre drop-goal that restored the 10-point advantage.
Connacht hardly came close to the home try line in the first half and posed little threat in attack but they managed to pull back the deficit two minutes before the break when the Dragons were penalised 30 metres out and Carty made no mistake.
Connacht came out with more purpose in the second half, with scrum-half Caolin Blade like a terrier around the base of the breakdowns.
But handling errors were Connacht's biggest headache, and, when the league champions tried to get something going, they were reined back.
And, when Hewitt beat the covering defence to the ball as Beard's long grubber kick down the left touchline drifted into the in-goal area, the Dragons were closing in on revenge after Connacht did the double over them on their way to last year's title.
O'Brien sank his second drop-goal of the night after 52 minutes to put his side 15 points ahead, although Carty kicked his third penalty five minutes later.
Centre Bundee Aki was a thorn in the Dragons' side most of the night but the home defence looked to be standing up to the visitors' pressure until they were caught napping as Adeolokun stormed over on the right for a neat try that Carty converted.
That took the Irishmen to within one try of levelling the match during a tense final 10 minutes but the Welshmen held out for victory.