Connacht racked up a 19—9 first-half lead, but the pendulum swung in Newport’s favour with a bizarre 15 — 3 penalty count against the visitors in the second. And with Ronan Loughney in the sinbin, and Eoghan Grace following suit after just a minute on the field, Connacht had to produce an immense defensive display.
The Dragons started the scoring with a penalty from outhalf Lewis Robling but Vainikolo then finished off in the corner and Nikora added the conversion to put Connacht 7 — 3 ahead. Within minutes Robling responded with a second penalty.
However, Nikora added three more penalties to give his side a 16— 6 lead.
When Wales international Dan Lydiate was binned Nikora stretched the lead to 13 points before the Dragons added a penalty .
But Vainikolo grabbed his second try within 57 seconds of the restart to keep Connacht in control..
Robling reduced the gap with a penalty after the break before Toby Faletau broke through after a series of five metre scrums. However that was good as it got for the home side.
DRAGONS: W Harries, T Chavhanga, A Tuilagi, A Smith, A Brew, L Robling, W Evans, P Price, S Jones, N Buck, L Charteris (cpt), R Sidoli, D Lydiate, J Groves, T Faletau. Replacements: N Williams for Price (43), L Evans for Lydiate (56) S Parry for Jones (57), J Bedford for Evans and S Jones for Robling (65).
CONNACHT: G Duffy, T O’Halloran, K Tonetti, H Fa’afili, F Vainikolo, M Nikora, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Loughney, M Swift, M McCarthy, M Kearney, R Ofisa, J Muldoon. Replacements: E Grace for Ofsia (77m), E McKeon for Kearney (77m), A Flavin for Reynecke (80m),
Referee: G Vivarini (Italy).
Other results: Edinburgh 26 Scarlets 23, Glasgow 31 Cardiff Blues 3.