Sport Rugby

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Connacht leave it late

Connacht 14 Dragons 11

Robbie Henshaw, Connacht, is tackled by Andrew Coombs and Cory Hill, Newport Gwent Dragons
Robbie Henshaw, Connacht, is tackled by Andrew Coombs and Cory Hill, Newport Gwent Dragons

John Fallon

Connacht rarely do things the easy way and after the glamour of the win in Toulouse, this was all about the grit and the grim as they carved out a dramatic late win in driving wind and rain at the Sportsground.

They seemed destined for another demoralising defeat when they trailed by five points with five minutes remaining but conjured a good try off a trademark lineout drive.

Then, with a minute left, they regrouped, got a maul rolling and Dan Parks delivered a drop-goal from 20 metres to secure a priceless victory.

There was an early double blow for Connacht when centre Dave McSharry limped off with a leg injury. And as Connacht were reorganising, Dragons struck with Ross Wardle breaking through the centre to send full-back Dan Evans over. Jason Tovey increased their lead with a 16th-minute penalty.

The Connacht scrum was good throughout and hard yards made from a maul yielded a penalty opportunity for Parks to register three points.

Trailing 8-3 at the break, Connacht got on top after the restart and looked good to push on for victory when a Parks penalty reduced the deficit three minutes into the second half.

However, it was the resolute Dragons who scored next, a Tovey penalty restoring their five-point advantage. Connacht were just not able to win enough possession to force Dragons back, even when prop Owen Evans was binned on the hour.

The hosts finally drew level five minutes from time. They got a good drive going from a lineout on the left but as wave after wave of surges were repelled, Parks went for a do-or-die crosskick in the wind and rain; it reached its target Fionn Carr, who let it bounce before collecting and reaching over the line to level the match.

Parks missed the conversion but Connacht countered and a powerful maul set up the opportunity for their out-half to grab victory.

Scorers -- Connacht: F Carr try; D Parks 2 pens, drop goal. Dragons: D Evans try; J Tovey 2 pens

Connacht: R Henshaw; G Duffy, E Griffin, D McSharry (F Carr 6), M Healy; D Parks, K Marmion (P O'Donohoe 67); B Wilkinson (D Buckley 70), J Harris-Wright, N White (R Ah You 65), M Kearney (A Browne 70), C Clarke (capt), J Muldoon, J Heenan (G Naoupu 48), E McKeon.

Dragons: D Evans; W Harries, P Leach, R Wardle (A Smith 67), H Amos; J Tovey, R Rees; O Evans, S Parry (R Thomas 57), F Chaparro (D Way 57), A Coombs (capt), C Hill (M Screech 65), L Evans, N Cudd, T Faletau.

Referee: A Rolland (IRFU)

Irish Independent

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