Pro12: Connacht 14-9 NG Dragons
|Pro12: Connacht v NG Dragons|
|Connacht (14) 14|
|Tries: O'Halloran, Blade Cons: Ronaldson 2|
|NG Dragons (3) 9|
|Pens: O'Brien 3|
Two early tries proved just enough for Connacht in a dour Pro12 encounter against the Dragons in Galway.
The Irish hosts led 14-0 after as many minutes thanks to converted tries from Tiernan O'Halloran and Caolin Blade.
Angus O'Brien's penalty cut the lead to 11 points at the close of the first half at the Sportground.
O'Brien landed two more penalties to set up a tense but scoreless finish as Connacht held firm for victory.
Connacht's willingness to run the ball in damp conditions led to a breathless first five minutes, at the end of which Jack Carty's long, flat pass freed up Matt Healy on the left wing and he linked inside with full-back O'Halloran for a well-worked opening try.
Hosts take control
Craig Ronaldson converted and also added the extras to Blade's 12th-minute effort, the scrum-half selling a dummy and darting through from the edge of the 22 after John Muldoon and Denis Buckley had combined to win turnover ball.
Following his early entry into the game for Dorian Jones, young replacement O'Brien opened the Dragons' account with a 17th-minute penalty before a scrappy spell saw Connacht lose some hard-earned territory.
Connacht should have added to their lead before the break, but Dragons kicker O'Brien reduced the arrears to eight points with an early penalty on the restart.
Further opportunities went begging for Connacht - a maul infringement letting them down in the visitors' 22 , and O'Brien's boot kept Kingsley Jones' charges in it, notching a third penalty success after good work at the breakdown by replacement Cory Hill.
There were try-saving interventions at both ends as the play became more loose. Dragons' Tyler Morgan was held up near the left corner before his centre partner Adam Warren had to react quickly to stop Healy from scoring via Farrell's kick through.
Although their scrum grew in influence, Connacht's lineout let them down when Nick Crosswell produced a crucial steal.
The hosts were left holding on to their five-point buffer as John Cooney's late kick-chase try was ruled out - replays showed he was ahead of kicker Healy.
The Dragons, just a week on from their Cork hammering by Munster, came away with a deserved losing bonus point.
Connacht: O'Halloran, Adeolokun, Farrell, Ronaldson, Healy, Carty, Blade, Buckley, Heffernan, Bealham, Dillane, Roux, O'Brien, Heenan, Muldoon.
Replacements: Parata for Ronaldson (77), J. Cooney for Blade (57), McCartney for Heffernan (57), JP Cooney for Bealham (78), Fox-Matamua for Dillane (63), Cannon for Roux (69). Not Used: Loughney, Crosbie.
Newport Gwent D'gons: Prydie, Hughes, Morgan, Warren, Howard, D. Jones, Knoyle, Hobbs, Dee, B. Harris, Crosswell, Landman, Griffiths, Cudd, Evans.
Replacements: Beard for Morgan (68), O'Brien for D. Jones (15), Pretorius for Knoyle (77), T. Davies for Hobbs (61), Fairbrother for B. Harris (61), Hill for Landman (41), Keddie for Griffiths (77). Not Used: D. Harris.
Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales)