Dragons end losing streak with win over Connacht
REPORT: The Dragons pulled off a 35-22 victory in their United Rugby Championship match at Connacht, ending a six-game losing run.
Following last week’s narrow defeat against Leinster, Dean Ryan’s men deservedly ended their run of defeats, with flanker Taine Basham excelling.
Although Dragons fullback Jonah Holmes scored the only try of the first half, four penalties from Jack Carty had Connacht 12-8 ahead at the break.
However, the Welsh side were clinical after that, with Jordan Williams, Mesake Doge and Holmes again all crossing. Influential flyhalf Sam Davies booted 15 points.
Connacht replied with tries from Mack Hansen and Conor Fitzgerald, but there was no denying Dragons their first victory since April.
An offside call against Rhodri Williams allowed Carty to kick Connacht ahead in the third minute. The Athlone man missed a second attempt but was back on target in the 14th minute.
Davies soon got the Dragons off the mark, and neither try-line was troubled until the all-action Basham was stopped short from a maul.
With 27 minutes gone, fullback Williams brilliantly collected his own chip kick on the bounce and put Holmes reaching over in the right corner. Davies narrowly missed the conversion.
The visitors then lost lock Will Rowlands to the sin bin for not rolling away. Carty mopped up with the three points and soon fired over from a similar 35-metre range for 12-8.
Nonetheless, the Dragons silenced the home crowd with three tries in 18 second-half minutes. Fullback Williams beat three defenders for a terrific 47th-minute try, converted by Davies.
Profiting from Jack Dixon’s initial turnover, Fijian prop Doge burrowed over for Davies to convert.
Suddenly, Connacht found themselves trailing 22-12. Carty swung the ball wide for Hansen to duck inside three tackles and make the line. Carty missed the conversion.
His opposite number Davies kept the Dragons on course, knocking over a penalty before threading a kick through for Holmes to complete his brace.
Davies’ reliable left boot clipped over the conversion and a final penalty, that last kick coming after Connacht’s Sam Arnold had sent fellow replacement Fitzgerald over out wide.
Player of the match
The Dragons’ only previous success at the Sportsground was on their inaugural visit to the Galway venue over 17 years ago.
They put an end to that winless run in emphatic style, with Jordan Williams and Davies starring.
However, the biggest impact was made by openside Basham, who carried powerfully and put in some crunching hits.
Play of the match
Dragons fullback Williams showed how sharp a finisher he is with a brilliant individual try from the edge of the Connacht 22.
He glided around Tom Daly, showed good feet to take Tiernan O’Halloran out of the equation and handed off Ben O’Donnell to score to the left of the posts.
Tries: Hansen, Fitzgerald
Pens: Carty 4
Tries: Holmes 2, J Williams, Doge
Cons: S Davies 3
Pens: S Davies 3
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Ben O’Donnell, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Oisin Dowling, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Matthew Burke.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Jordan Duggan, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Leva Fifita, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Sammy Arnold.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Jack Dixon, 12 Aneurin Owen, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie (captain), 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Greg Bateman.
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Adam Warren.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Nigel Correll (Ireland)
TMO: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)