Connacht responded to an early setback to score 38 unanswered points in an impressive bonus point win away to Dragons at Rodney Parade.
Tries from Gavin Thornbury, Matt Healy, Finlay Bealham, Cillian Gallagher and Kieran Marmion secured a victory which has given the side back to back 5 pointers and top spot in Guinness PRO14 Conference B after three games.
Connacht underwent a challenging opening 20 minutes, with the hosts almost in for the opening try before it was ruled out by the TMO, and then moments later Tiernan O’Halloran went off injured defending his own try-line. The pressure eventually told on 19 minutes when Tyler Morgan spotted a gap to touch down for the opening try.
That concession seemed to revitalise Connacht with a dominant 2nd quarter where they notched up 17 points. The first of those came from a Gavin Thornbury try, with the second row powering over a number of phases after a 5 metre lineout. Conor Fitzgerald slotted the extras and then added a penalty moments later to give the visitors a 10-7 lead.
The best play of the half came just after the half hour mark, with the Connacht backs moving the ball wide to Matt Healy who produced a brilliant chip-chase on the far side to gather the ball metres from the try line and then showed enough strength to score his first try of the season.
Connacht couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second half. Moments after John Porch returned to the field from a sin-binning, a penalty came their way for a high challenge in the middle of the field. After Fitzgerald kicked for the corner, the lineout maul did its job and Finlay Bealham made it try number three.
Andy Friend’s side knocked down the door for the vast majority of the second half as they went in search of the bonus point, and the crucial score eventually came 8 minutes from time through Cillian Gallagher, again after powerful work from the pack.
Replacement scrum-half Kieran Marmion then put gloss on the scoreboard with his second try in as many games, with man-of-the-match Conor Fitzgerald adding the extras for his 13th point with a 100% success rate.
The hosts managed to get their second of the game past the 80th minute, but the win had been long since secured.
Next up for Connacht is a one week break before the visit of high-flying Cheetahs to The Sportsground on Saturday 26th October – an early meeting of the two Conference leaders. CONNACHT MATCHDAY SQUAD V DRAGONS
(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade
(1-8): Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald.