Friday 21 October 2016

Connacht made to work for season opening victory

Connacht Newport 29 Gwent Dragons 23

Published 04/09/2015 | 22:31

Connacht's Danie Poolman is tackled by Ross Wardle, Newport Gwent Dragons. at the Sportsground, Galway.
Connacht's Danie Poolman is tackled by Ross Wardle, Newport Gwent Dragons. at the Sportsground, Galway.

Fionn Carr's 77th-minute try sealed a hard-earned 29-23 win for Connacht against Newport Gwent Dragons at the Showground as the Guinness PRO12 season began.

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A superb break from Bundee Aki set up replacement Carr's clinching score, but the doughty Dragons, who improved significantly in the second half, took home a losing bonus point thanks to Tom Prydie's penalty with the last kick of the game.

New Connacht flanker Nepia Fox-Matamua scored from a lineout catch and drive and Jack Carty kicked three penalties as the hosts led 14-3 at the interval.

However, the Irish province were badly caught out on the resumption, the visitors' debutant scrum-half Sarel Pretorius burrowing over from a ruck to close the gap to just four points.

Danie Poolman's unconverted effort and a further Carty penalty, in response to a Jason Tovey kick, saw Connacht wrestle back control and they did just enough to get over the finish line despite leaking a James Thomas try with five minutes to go.

New Zealander Fox-Matamua was prominent early on as assured out-half Carty landed two fine penalties from the right side to give the hosts a 6-0 lead.

Pretorius showed his sniping ability as the Dragons sought to respond, threatening on the counter before fellow South African Carl Meyer missed a long-range penalty.

Connacht lost Kieran Marmion to a suspected hip injury but Carty's profitable night with the boot continued, his third successful penalty punishing a Dragons offside in the 21st minute.

The home side pressed for a try soon after, going for the corner via a couple of penalties and following Quinn Roux's brilliant one-handed lineout take, the Connacht maul powered over with Fox-Matamua touching down.

Carty's missed conversion was followed by the Dragons' opening points from the boot of out-half Tovey, and Connacht would have been frustrated that a promising bout of late pressure was spoiled by handling errors.

Lyn Jones' half-time words seemed to work a treat as Tovey and Nick Scott inspired a threatening Dragons attack, and the ever-alert Pretorius dotted down from the base of a ruck. Tovey's conversion made it 14-10.

Crucially, Connacht were quick to respond as Eoghan Masterson and John Cooney were involved in a neat switch of play from a scrum, and industrious man of the match Tiernan O'Halloran passed for winger Poolman to get over out wide.

The Dragons kept in touch with a Tovey penalty but following a Meyer miss from distance, Connacht upped their efforts with Poolman, Rodney Ah You and Tom McCartney all carrying strongly before a simple Carty three-pointer.

A prolonged spell of pressure saw Thomas rewarded with a try from close range which Tovey converted for a 22-20 scoreline. However, Aki's heroics in breaking clear to set up Carr's decisive score secured the result for Connacht.

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