Connacht 16 – 11 Dragons

Connacht Rugby opened the 2014/15 campaign with a 16 – 11 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at the Sportsground in Galway this evening.

Head Coach Pat Lam selected a youthful and predominantly untested side for the GUINNESS PRO12 opener and was rewarded with a pleasing team performance and a deserved four points.

Connacht scored a try in either half through Number 8 Eoin McKeon and wing Danie Poolman while centre Darragh Leader kicked a penalty either side of the break.

The Welsh side’s scores came from flanker Nic Cudd who crossed the line on the half hour mark while outhalf Jason Tovey was successful from the kicking tee in both halves.

Connacht were on the front foot from the off, winning a penalty from the scrum on just two minutes with Man of the Match Denis Buckley showing his focus from Loosehead. Leader stepped up to take the first shot at the sticks but the long range effort hit off the left upright.

Connacht’s dominance in possession in the opening quarter was rewarded with a well-worked team try on 9 minutes. New winger Niyi Adeolokun, on his professional debut, showed great pace up the right wing for a perfectly timed offload to McKeon who ran in for the five points. Leader missed the conversion attempt but the home side led 5-0 after ten minutes

When the Dragons failed to roll away five minutes later, captain John Muldoon signalled for Leader to take the penalty and the 21-year-old Galway man slotted his third attempt through the posts for an 8 – 0 lead.

The visitors from Wales slowly started to work their way into the game and were awarded a penalty on the 20-minute mark which Tovey sent wide.

But they were celebrating moments later when Connacht were caught for numbers out wide and simple passing from Lynn Jones side sent Cudd over in the corner to put his side on the score board. Tovey missed the conversion but was on target five minutes later when his side were awarded a penalty for Dave McSharry tugging on a Dragons’ jersey deep inside the Connacht 22.

The Dragons tried to made the most of their advantage with McSharry in the sin bin, and thought they had scored through Andrew Coombs but the try was disallowed for an earlier knock-on.

Half time: Connacht 8 – 8 Dragons

Try scorer Eoin McKeon was replaced by George Naoupu for the second half and Connacht were back to full strength with McSharry returning from the sin bin.

The Dragons’ suffered their own sin binning after 48 minutes when their captain Lee Byrne was shown yellow for taking out Carty in the air. With the one-man advantage, Buckley showed his power at the scrum once again to secure a penalty for Leader to knock over from 28 metres out. Connacht now led by 11 points to 8.

The Dragons found themselves down to just 13 men for a period when centre Tyler Morgan was also shown yellow for a spear-tackle on Carty who used the resulting penalty to kick to the corner.

Mauling from the lineout, the ball went back to Carty who sent a perfect cross field kick over to the onrushing Poolman to collect and dive over for his side’s second try. Leader missed the conversion to leave Connacht 16 – 8 up after 55 minutes.

Both Miah Nikora and Tom Prydie exchanged unsuccessful penalty kicks in the second half but it was Tovey’s 75th minute penalty kick that made it a five-point game with only five minutes left on the clock.

Connacht had their chances in the closing ten minutes but the Dragons’ defence held strong. It was a frantic finish as a Dragons flurry of attack threatened a score in the last two minutes but they couldn’t find a way through and Connacht hung on for deserved victory.

Connacht team: 15. Shane Layden 14. Niyi Adeolokun 13. Darragh Leader 12. Dave McSharry 11. Danie Poolman 10. Jack Carty 9. Ian Porter

1. Denis Buckley 2. Dave Heffernan  3. Nathan White 4. Mick Kearney 5. Quinn Roux 6. John Muldoon 7. Jake Heenan 8. Eoin McKeon


Replacements (all used):

16. Sean Henry 17. Finlay Bealham 18. Rodney Ah You 19. George Naoupu 20. Willie Faloon 21. Kieran Marmion 22. Miah Nikora 23. Conor Finn

Man of the Match: Denis Buckley

Attendance: 4, 213



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