Dragons edge out Connacht
January 6, 2011
Winger Aled Brew crossed for one of the Dragons' two tries
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The Dragons returned to winning ways in this season's Magners League with a 17-16 victory over fellow strugglers Connacht at Rodney Parade.
Head coach Paul Turner saw his side earn revenge for an opening roud defeat and notch a fifth triumph of the campaign which lifts the Welshmen above Glasgow Warriors into ninth spot.
Connacht had the initiative for a rare double before kick-off, having thrashed the Dragons 40-17 in September. But, as Wales national coach Warren Gatland and his his assistants Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins watched from the stands ahead of their Six Nations Championships squad announcement later this month, it was vital for the Dragons to fire.
However, in a first half that had few sparks, the Welsh region led by just a single point as the teams went in at the interval. One player who must have impressed Gatland and was wing Aled Brew, who played in November against Fiji. He scored the first of the Dragons' two touchdowns in the opening period and set up centre Tom Riley for the second.
Both scores were well worked moves from halfway. Brew went over after just three minutes when outside half Jason Tovey fed former Welsh cap Gavin Thomas. Brew took the ball down the left, linked with Riley on the touchline before taking the return pass inside to go over. Tovey booted the conversion but the stand-off was guilty of arguably the penalty miss of the season so far when a straight-forward 20-metre effort in front of the posts went wide.
Connacht, in need of a victory having only added one other league success over Glasgow in September to their list, battled hard and caused some problems in the home defence. After fullback Ian Keatley had kicked a penalty to get the Irishmen started, he converted a try from wing Troy Nathan, who was put away on the right wing by centre Eoin Griffin to give Connacht the lead.
With five minutes to go, however, fullback Will Harries set Brew on another dash from the halfway line where he passed inside to Riley for a converted score although that pass did look suspiciously forward. But, when Dragons skipper Tom Willis was offside at a ruck 30 metres from his line, Keatley did the honours again with his second penalty.
Keatley regained the lead for Connacht on 51 minutes but when hooker Sean Cronin prevented the ball from being released at a ruck, Tovey landed the penalty from 38 metres. It was, though, an ugly half, with both sides guilty of wasting possession through bad handling, choosing for the power option through the forwards plus a poor territorial kicking game. As a result, the flow of the match was interrupted by numerous scrums.
With time running out, Connacht outside-half Miah Nikora tried a decent drop-goal attempt only for replacement flanker Andrew Coombs to charge it down. A few moves later and the Dragons were on the Connacht 22, laying the ball off to the big men in an attempt to find a last try. It did not come but the Welshmen took the win while Connacht had to settle for a losing bonus point.
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