Connacht show battling qualities to slay Dragons

Connacht 29 Dragons 23: Connacht opened their Guinness Pro 12 season with a valuable home win, edging a lively encounter against the Newport Gwent Dragons at the Galway Sportsground last evening.

Although struggling at the breakdown against a physical Welsh pack, Connacht’s potency proved sharper on the night, outscoring the Dragons by three tries to two.

Pat Lam’s men were rewarded with two Jack Carty penalties from early pressure, but with new South African signing Sarel Pretorious pulling the strings at halfback, the visitors gathered momentum. Fullback Carl Meyer was wide with a 15th minute penalty, before Carty struck a 22nd minute effort to stretch the lead to 9-0.

Connacht reaped the reward for Dragons’ indiscipline when Nepia Fox-Matamua scored the first try on his Connacht debut, with help from a drive led by Tom McCartney, and Jason Tovey added a penalty, Connacht were 14-3 ahead at the break.

However within two minutes of the restart the Dragons reduced the deficit to four points, Pretorious finishing off an electric move up the left wing, but with Danie Poolman, Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy looking to attack, Connacht replied with a 48th minute unconverted try, Poolman crashing over in the right corner.

Although the home side could not shake off the visitors, who added a 56th minute penalty, they always kept their noses in front, Carty stroking over a 68th minute penalty to make it a two-score game again. However with five minutes remaining, the Welsh outfit struck again, capitalising on Connacht’s failure to clear their lines, with replacement James Thomas crashing over and Tovey converting. However a superb break out of defensc by Bundee Aki paved the way for replacement Fionn Carr, who finished with aplomb to seal victory, while Tom Prydie’s long-range penalty at the death gave the visitors a losing bonus point.

Connacht:

T O’Halloran, D Poolman, R Parata, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, K Marmion, D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, Q Roux, A Browne, J Muldoon (captain), N Fox-Matamua, E Masterson. Replacements: J Cooney for Marmion (16m), B Marshall for Roux (54m), F Carr for Healy (56m), E McKeon for Masterson (61m), JP Cooney for Buckley (63m), F Bealham for Ah You (72m), C Ronaldson for O’Halloran (75m).

Dragons:

C Meyer, T Prydie, R Wardle, A Warren, N Scott, J Tovey, S Pretorius; B Stankovich, T Rhys Thomas (cpt), S Knight, C Hill, R Landman, N Crosswell, N Cudd, E Jackson. Replacements: P Price for Stankovich (56m), H Gustafson for Thomas and D Jones for Meyer (61m), J Thomas for Crosswell (63m),C Davies for Pretorious (64m) T Morgan for Warren (66m), J Benjamin for Cudd (68), D Jones for Tovey (79m).

Referee:

B Whitehouse (Wales)

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