Pro12: Newport Gwent Dragons 21-26 Connacht

By Nick WebbBBC Sport Wales
Newport Gwent Dragons' Nic Cudd is tackled by Tom McCartney
Newport Gwent Dragons' Nic Cudd is tackled by Tom McCartney
Dragons (15) 21
Tries: Hughes, Hewitt Cons: O'Brien Pens: Tovey, O'Brien 2
Connacht (14) 26
Tries: Healy, O'Halloran, Masterson, Aki Cons: Ronaldson 3

Connacht's late surge saw them move to the top of the Pro12 with a bonus-point win at Newport Gwent Dragons.

Matt Healy, Tiernan O'Halloran, Eoghan Masterson and Bundee Aki crossed for the Irish side with Craig Ronaldson adding three conversions.

Tries from Adam Hughes and Ashton Hewitt plus two Angus O'Brien penalties allowed the Dragons to lead for much of the match.

But the visitors held out after Aki's decisive late score.

Connacht knocked Ulster off top spot while Scarlets - Wales' leading team in the competition - dropped to third before the games that follow from Friday to Sunday.

After an early Jason Tovey penalty, the two teams produced a remarkable burst of four tries in the space of 13 minutes as the lead changed hands four times.

Connacht scored in their first attack on 13 minutes, when wing Healy shot clean through under the posts for his fifth league try of the campaign, Ronaldson converting.

Hughes gave the Dragons the lead with a charge-down, kick and chase just moments later, but the visitors regained the advantage when O'Halloran crossed wide on the left for Ronaldson to goal again.

The breathless pace continued with snappy handling from the Dragons forwards sending wing Hewitt clear, the conversion coming from O'Brien after Tovey's early departure.

The Dragons led 15-14 at the interval, and an early O'Brien penalty after the break was the signal for Connacht coach Pat Lam to bring on Ireland squad members Kieran Marmion and Finlay Bealham, followed by Ultan Dillane.

O'Brien's second penalty put the Dragons seven points clear in the third quarter, but the visitors produced a dynamic finish thanks to their driving mauls.

First Masterson scrambled over for a try in the corner, then Aki crashed over with nine minutes left following fine work from the forwards, with Ronaldson converting.

The Dragons produced a final flourish, but could not find a cutting edge and had to settle for a consolation bonus point.

Dragons: Geraint Rhys Jones; Ashton Hewitt, Adam Hughes, Adam Warren, Nick Scott; Jason Tovey, Sarel Pretorius; Phil Price, Elliot Dee, Brok Harris, Matthew Screech, Rynard Landman (capt), Ben White, Nic Cudd, Nick Crosswell.

Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Luke Garrett, Shaun Knight, Cory Hill, James Benjamin, Charlie Davies, Angus O'Brien, Ross Wardle.

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; Danie Poolman, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; AJ MacGinty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, George Naoupu, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), Jake Heenan, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Eoin McKeon, Kieran Marmion, Peter Robb, Rory Parata.

Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)

Assistant referees: Dan Jones, Simon Rees (both WRU)

Citing commissioner: Jeff Mark (WRU)

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