Head Coach Kieran Keane has made seven changes to the Connacht side that secured a bonus-point win against the Southern Kings last week as the team travel to Rodney Parade to take on the Dragons tomorrow night (7.30pm).

Rory Scholes, Caolin Blade, Denis Coulson, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux and Jake Heenan all come into the side for their first starts of the season as Eoghan Masterson comes back in for his second start.

Scholes is set to make his competitive debut for the province on the wing in place of Matt Healy.

Blade is included in the side at scrum-half in place of Irish international Kieran Marmion, who is named among the replacements.

The other five changes are in the pack with two alterations in the front row. Coulson makes his first start for Connacht at loosehead prop after coming off the bench to make his debut in the win over the Kings with Carey starting at tighthead prop.

Ireland international Roux and Heenan also come into the side for their first starts of the season with Roux in the second row and Heenan in the back row.

Masterson, a try-scorer off the bench last week, replaces the injured Sean O’Brien.

With six points from two home games, Connacht are on the road for the first time this season in Wales and Assistant Coach Nigel Carolan is not underestimating the challenge posed by Bernard Jackman’s Dragons side.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Carolan said: “Bernard Jackman is trying to rebuild the Dragons and create a strong identity, much like he did in Grenoble. They will be a tight-knit group and very difficult to play against. They have some real firepower with Ashton Hewitt, Zane Kirchner, and the boot of Gavin Henson. It is going to be a very difficult game for us and we have to make sure we build on last week and are more effective than we were against the Kings.”

#DRAvCON

Please note this game is not televised but follow @ConnachtRugby on Twitter for live updates from Rodney Parade.

Kick-off 7.30pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Rory Scholes, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon.

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, Jarrad Butler, Kieran Marmion, Steve Crosbie, Eoin Griffin.

Guinness PRO12

Connacht 14-9 Newport Gwent Dragons

Connacht made it two wins over Welsh opposition in as many weeks tonight thanks to a nerve-jangling 14-9 victory in front of a vocal crowd at a packed out Sportsground.

While the first half saw Connacht produce an enterprising, energetic performance, Newport Gwent Dragons fought back very strongly in the second half to almost snatch the win.

Tries in the opening 14 minutes from Tiernan O’Halloran and Caolin Blade, both converted by Craig Ronaldson, proved the difference as replacement Angus O’Brien kicked three penalties for the visitors.

An entertaining opening to the game saw Connacht score a fifth minute try through O’Halloran, his fifth of the season. After a frantic, free-flowing start, Jack Carty floated a precise pass for Matt Healy on the left flank and the winger offloaded to in-form O’Halloran to touch down. Ronaldson converted and Connacht led 7-0.

The second try arrived for Blade on 14 minutes with Connacht rampant at this stage. A superbly delayed pass by Ronaldson initiated the move as he released O’Halloran, who picked a great line. The full-back then passed outside to Niyi Adeolokun but a super Pat Howard tackle stopped the winger outside the 22. The forwards then went through a few phases before Blade fooled the Dragons defence with a delightful little show-and-go and dart over the line. A second Ronaldson conversion made it 14-0 after 14 minutes.

Replacement O’Brien came in at out-half for the injured Dorian Jones shortly afterwards and the youngster got his team off the mark after a Connacht infringement at the breakdown to make it 14-3 on 18 minutes.

Not surprisingly, the game entered a lull following the action-packed opening but Connacht burst into life once more on the half-hour as Carty released the electric Healy once again for the initial break with the ball eventually worked up to the right corner after some incredible hands but the final pass to Sean O’Brien went forward.

Connacht were almost in again moments later as Ronaldson stepped in to intercept Angus O’Brien’s pass in midfield and break away but his pass back to centre partner Tom Farrell, who was excellent on his full debut, was knocked on.

Newport made the better start to the second half and an O’Brien penalty after a Connacht offside on 42 minutes made it 14-6.

The lead was down to five points on 52 minutes as the retreating Adeolokun gathered a dangerous chip in behind. The Dragons defence immediately swarmed on the winger with the penalty inevitable as O’Brien brought the visitors to within a score with 28 minutes to go, 14-9.

Connacht then required some last-ditch scramble defence on their own line after Harrison Keddie forced the turnover with a big tackle on replacement John Cooney after a lineout. The Dragons were camped on the Connacht line and a try looked inevitable when they swung the ball left but O’Halloran and company were quick on the scene and managed to prevent the try.

The excellent Connacht scrum then pushed their counterparts off the ball to earn a penalty and relieve the pressure as Connacht survived.

The next close call came at the other end as Healy raced onto a kick through but his offload to Cooney was too low and the chance was gone.

A brilliant Sean O’Brien turnover then saved Connacht’s bacon as the game neared the 70-minute mark as the Dragons went perilously close again.

There was further drama in the final 10 minutes as Conney’s try was ruled out for an infringement in the build-up but there was to be no late show from Newport as Connacht clung on for a precious win.

A trip to Italy to face Benetton Treviso awaits Connacht next Sunday with Zebre visiting the Sportsground in the next home game on Friday, March 3 at 7.35pm.

Tickets are now available online here.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Craig Ronaldson (Rory Parata, 77), Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (John Cooney, 56); Denis Buckley (Ronan Loughney, 78), Dave Heffernan (Tom McCartney, 56), Finlay Bealham (JP Cooney, 78); Ultan Dillane (Nepia Fox-Matamua, 63), Quinn Roux (James Cannon, 69); Sean O’Brien, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (C).

Unused replacement:  Steve Crosbie.

Newport Gwent Dragons: Tom Prydie; Adam Hughes, Tyler Morgan, Adam Warren, Pat Howard; Dorian Jones, Tavis Knoyle; Sam Hobbs, Elliot Dee, Brok Harris; Nick Crosswell, Rynard Landman; Ollie Griffiths, Nic Cudd, Lewis Evans (C).

Replacements; Darran Harris, Thomas Davies, Lloyd Fairbrother, Cory Hill, Harrison Keddie, Sarel Pretorius, Angus O’Brien, Sam Beard.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Connacht Head Coach Pat Lam has named his side to face Newport Gwent Dragons in round 15 of the Guinness PRO12 on Saturday night (7:35pm).

There are five personnel changes from the side that beat Cardiff Blues in Wales five days ago.

Irish internationals Kieran Marmion, Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane all come in to start this week while centre Tom Farrell has been handed his full debut. The 23-year-old, who joined from Bedford Blues last month and has made two appearances from the bench, partners Craig Ronaldson in midfield tomorrow night at the Sportsground.

Hooker Dave Heffernan, who continues his impressive run of featuring in every game so far this season, earns his seventh start in the number 2 shirt.

From the bench, 23-year-old Steve Crosbie, who also joined the province last month, is in line to make his Connacht debut

Commenting on the upcoming game, head coach Pat Lam said:

“We’re all really excited to be back playing at home for the first time in five weeks. By all accounts it will be a full house here again tomorrow and that always drives us on.

“We’re very aware of where we are in this competition and what we need to do. Dragons will take confidence from their victory over us in round 8 so it’s really important that we are right on the money with our mental preparation and execution of the game plan.”

Connacht team to face Newport Gwent Dragons 

Saturday February 18th, kick off 19:35, the Sportsground  

(Connacht caps in brackets)

15           Tiernan O’Halloran (119)
14           Niyi Adeolokun (50)
13           Tom Farrell (2)
12           Craig Ronaldson (59)
11           Matt Healy (85)
10           Jack Carty (72)
9             Kieran Marmion (115)

1             Denis Buckley (109)
2             Dave Heffernan (76)
3             Finlay Bealham (73)
4             Ultan Dillane (37)
5             Quinn Roux (47)
6             Sean O’Brien (32)
7             Jake Heenan (48)
8             John Muldoon (293) (captain)

Replacements:

16          Tom McCartney (57)
17          Ronan Loughney (190)
18          JP Cooney (44)
19          James Cannon (10)
20          Nepia Fox-Matamua (17)
21          Caolin Blade (38)
22          Steve Crosbie (0)
23          Rory Parata (25)

Injured / Unavailable: Conor Carey, Ivan Soroka, Conan O’Donnell, Andrew Browne, Marnitz Boshoff, Bundee Aki, Stacey Ili, Eoin Griffin, Cormac Brennan, Cian Kelleher, Darragh Leader, Josh Rowland.

Did you know?

  • Connacht Rugby victory in Cardiff on Sunday ended a three game losing run in the Guinness PRO12, whilst the Irishmen’s only home loss in their last eight matches in all tournaments was to Munster in the PRO12 on New Year’s Eve.
  • Newport Gwent Dragons have won only one of their last five Guinness PRO12 fixtures: 26-8 at home to Treviso in round 13.
  • Dragons have not won away from home in the PRO12 since a visit to Treviso in March 2015.
  • Dragons beat Connacht in round 8 in Newport and have only once before achieved a PRO12 season’s double over the Irishmen, in the inaugural home and away season of 2003/04 – the only previous time Dragons have won in Galway.

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:

Played 27, Connacht won 17, Dragons  won 10.

CONNACHT RUGBY v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS
At the Sportsground, 7.35pm.
Live on TG4 / S4C                            

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 146th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones (WRU), Shane Kierans (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU)
TMO:  Charles Samson (SRU)

Get your tickets to Connacht v Dragons here.

HEAD TO HEAD – RECENT GUINNESS PRO12 MEETINGS
Date Venue C N Connacht scorers Newport Gwent Dragons scorers
Sun 23 Mar 14 Rodney Parade 24 8 Dan Parks(2C) Michael Swift(T) John Muldoon(2T) Rodney Ah You(T) Tom Prydie(T) Jason Tovey(P)
Sat 6 Sep 14 Sportsground 16 11 Danie Poolman(T) Eoin McKeon(T) Darragh Leader(2P) Jason Tovey(2P) Nic Cudd(T)
Sun 22 Feb 15 Rodney Parade 30 25 Jack Carty(2C/P) Mick Kearney(T) Eoghan Masterson(T) Darragh Leader(C/2P) Craig Ronaldson(T) Jack Dixon(T) Hallam Amos(2T) Tom Prydie(2C/2P)
Fri 4 Sep 15 Sportsground 29 23 Danie Poolman(T) Nepia Fox-Matamua(T) Jack Carty(C/4P) Fionn Carr(T) Tom Prydie(P) James Thomas(T) Jason Tovey(2C/2P) Sarel Pretorius(T)
Thu 11 Feb 16 Rodney Parade 26 21 Matt Healy(T) Tiernan O’Halloran(T) Eoghan Masterson(T) Bundee Aki(T) Craig Ronaldson(3C) Angus O’Brien(C/2P) Adam Hughes(T) Jason Tovey(P) Ashton Hewitt(T)
Fri 4 Nov 16 Rodney Parade 16 21 Jack Carty(C/3P) Niyi Adeolokun(T) Angus O’Brien(C/2D/P) Ashton Hewitt(2T)

 

 

COMPARISON Connacht Dragons
Last 3 PRO12 results: 31 Dec – Munster (H) L 9-16 1 Jan – Ospreys (H) L 0-10
  7 Jan – Ospreys (A) L 7-29 6 Jan – Treviso (H) W 26-8
  12 Feb – Cardiff Blues (A) W 19-13 10 Feb – Munster (A) L 17-45
PRO12 2016/17 8th – W4 D0 L8 – 21pts 10th – W4 D0 L9 – 19pts
Last 6 PRO12 form lWWlLl (11pts) WWllLW (12pts)
Top try scorer 4 – Niyi Adeolokun 4 – Pat Howard
Top points scorer 68 – Jack Carty 77 – Angus O’Brien

 

Ahead of Saturday’s Guinness PRO12 round 15 game at home to Newport Gwent Dragons (7:35pm), the Connacht Rugby medical team have provided the following update.

Stacey Ili (ankle) sustained a minor ankle injury in the game v Cardiff and will be monitored by the medical and fitness staff this week. 

Ireland internationals Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion and Tiernan O’Halloran will train with Connacht this week and are all available for selection.

CONNACHT RUGBY v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS
At the Sportsground, 7.35pm.
Live on TG4 / S4C                            

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 146th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones (WRU), Shane Kierans (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU)
TMO:  Charles Samson (SRU)

Get your tickets to Connacht v Dragons here.

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