Newport Gwent Dragons put a spirited performance in this evening against a strong Connacht team after going down to 14 men inside 15 minutes.
A strong performance from the remaining 14 players was rewarded with a crucial losing bonus point lifting the Dragons above the Blues in the PRO12 table.
In what was a testing game for the Dragons in blustery conditions, it began with a penalty from Tom Prydie after only a few minutes. The visitors were rewarded a penalty soon after the restart though and decided to kick for touch. Jason Tovey tried in vain to keep the ball in touch but in doing so twisted an ankle that would see him leave the field. From the resulting lineout the Connacht pack responded with a series of hard pick and go’s within close proximity to the Dragons line which resulted in space for Connacht centre, Craig Ronaldson, to burrow over the line. Jack Carty added the extras to put the visitors in front.
The fly-half then went on to kick a penalty to extend Connacht’s lead before the decisive moment of the match. An attempted charge down from skipper, Rynard Landman, left the Connacht fly half on the ground with the referee giving the decision to red card the lock. As a result of the dismissal, Carty was given another attempt at the posts only to miss this time and also the next chance he was given.
After 20 minutes Connacht went on to score another try, this time it was Eoghan Masterson who went over and Carty added the extras for the visitors. The Dragons, though, were not going to take these additional points lying down. They attempted two driving line outs which were gained through penalties in tight play; the ball was delivered from the back of the maul with great efficiency to afford the Dragons space against their numerical disadvantage, Hallam Amos crossed the line in acres of space but the referee hesitated in giving the score instead consulting with the TMO. After some deliberation the try was given with no clear reason for it to be disallowed. Prydie missed the conversion but made up with a penalty soon after to make the scores 11-17 to the visitors going into half time.
Half Time: Dragons 11 – Connacht 17
The visitors pushed the lead to 23-11 following a hard fought start to the second half with two penalties for Ireland international Darragh Leader.
The Dragons soon pulled themselves back into contention though with a try through Jack Dixon following some tough forward play by the Dragons pack willed on by a vocal home crowd. Prydie converted to put the Dragons into a strong position with 15 minutes remaining, the scores stood at 18-23.
With just five minutes to go the Dragons found themselves pinned inside their own 22m and what should have been a routine clearance was charged down by the onrushing Connacht defence and replacement lock, Mick Kearney was quickest to react to dot down putting the visitors 30-18 in front following the conversion.
With 80 minutes on the clock the Dragons were battering away at the Connacht try line and almost 3 minutes into overtime Hallam Amos squeezed by to ground the ball in the corner for his second try of the match and the losing bonus point. Prydie slotted his fourth kick off the evening to round the scoring off at 25-30 to the visiting Connacht team.
A score that surely the home fans would be happy with given the situation after just 15 minutes, with 15 players on the pitch you would fancy the Dragons to have won with something to spare against a strong Connacht outfit now looking towards the playoff positions in the PRO12 league.