Sunday 21 December 2014

Time for Connacht to fire up and slay the Dragons

John Fallon

Published 05/09/2014 | 02:30

Connacht enjoy a good winning record against the Dragons, losing only once to the Newport side in their last six encounters. Picture credit: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE
Connacht enjoy a good winning record against the Dragons, losing only once to the Newport side in their last six encounters. Picture credit: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE

Connacht will bid to continue an impressive opening-day record when they take on Newport Gwent Dragons tomorrow, hoping to make it the 11th season out of 14 that they start their campaign with a win.

Indeed, Connacht won their opening match in the first seven seasons of the league and have only been beaten three times on the opening weekend.

A key factor in that impressive record is that Connacht have been fortunate to enjoy home advantage in 11 of the 13 years so far since the competition started.

Connacht won those two away ties as well, defeating Cardiff in the first ever game of the Celtic League 6-3 at the Arms Park in a remarkable game, while three years ago they won 11-9 in Treviso.

Connacht have faced Welsh opposition nine times on the opening weekend - Cardiff four times, Ospreys three and Dragons twice - while they have also played Glasgow, Edinburgh, Treviso and Zebre at the start of the season.

Aside from the three other Irish provinces, the Scarlets are the only other side they have not played in the opening round.

Connacht have defeated Dragons in their two previous meetings in the opening round.

In 2007 Connacht scored a 22-7 win, while their biggest opening-round win was also against the Dragons at the Sportsground when they won 40-17 in 2010.

Connacht enjoy a good winning record against the Dragons - their only defeat in their last six encounters against the Newport side was at Rodney Parade in November 2012.

The Dragons have only won once in Galway, a 32-14 success on their first visit to the Sportsground in May 2004.

Meanwhile, Connacht will be hoping for another successful season on the disciplinary front, having last season shared the Specsavers Fairplay League award with Ulster.

Connacht incurred just 11 points in the league - Dragons were bottom of the table with 23 points - with 11 yellow cards, sharing top spot with Ulster, who had one red and eight yellow cards. Connacht and Ulster received £5,000 each for their youth development programmes, with just four points separating the top nine teams.

Irish Independent

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