It was a familiar ending to a tight game for the Dragons out in Galway.
After pushing the Connacht outfit close for the full 80 minutes the Newport Gwent Dragons were made to settle with the losing bonus point for their efforts.
The Dragons headed out to the Irish West coast in high hopes with a raft of new signings making their competitive debuts but the Gwent team found themselves 14 points down after 25 minutes. Jack Carty managed to get his eye in early with three successful penalty kicks as the Dragons made an ill disciplined start to the game.
The Dragons were unable to get a foothold in the game but showed some attacking threat when possession was gained. With the try line being threatened, the touchline became the Greyhounds friend with Nick Scott being edged into touch. The Dragons were given the opportunity to get on the scoreboard with a long range Carl Meyer penalty but the infamous Galway wind pushed the ball to the right of the posts.
With the wind behind their backs in the first half Connacht were looking to get as many points on the board as possible and openside Nemia Fox-Matamua benefited from a well worked driving lineout after a penalty kicked to the corner. The try went unconverted though from the tough angle.
Now 14 points down the Dragons needed to get some points on the board and a penalty awarded in the opposition half afforded Jason Tovey a chance at goal. Tovey slotted the kick between the uprights to bring the scores to 14-3. The Dragons once again ventured deep into the Connacht 22m only for unforced errors giving Connacht the opportunity to clear their lines. The Dragons would have to settle going into the break 14-3 down.
Half Time: Connacht 14 – Dragons 3
At 14-3 the Dragons needed to come out for the second half with a bang and they certainly started the brighter of the two teams, scoring a try just two minutes after the restart.
Jason Tovey does well to cut an angle making ground, before Nick Scott takes the ball further with Sarel Pretorious burrowing over the line for a try on debut. The try was successfully converted by Tovey to bring the Dragons within four points. 14-10 after 42 minutes.
With the home support roaring them on Connacht pushed into the Dragons half and were able to take advantage of a scrum awarded to them. Eoghan Masterson peeled away from the base of the scrum and fed the ball to Danie Poolman to score the try in the corner. Again at such a wide angle Carty was unable to add the extras as the scores stood at 19-10.
With almost an hour on the clock the home team were penalised for not rolling away after the tackle and Tovey struck a sweet penalty to edge the visiting team closer. The Dragons were again awarded a penalty, this time further out, which Meyer was unlucky not to convert leaving the scores at 19-13.
Connacht now were looking for the killer blow to put the game to bed but resolute defence from the Dragons restricted the hosts to a penalty, successfully and sensibly converted to take the Galway team just outside of striking range.
Now with Wales tyro Tyler Morgan adding his considerable presence to midfield the Dragons were showing some real attacking strength with Morgan bursting through the line and finding an offload only for the ball to be knocked on. The Dragons weren’t finished there though with replacement James Thomas making it over the line leaving Tovey with a simple conversion to make the scores 22-20 with just three minutes to go.
The Dragons were now showing real grit and determination to go all out for the win but Connacht managed to win a turnover and race away for a breakaway try, Bundi Aki drawing the last man to give Fion Carr an easy run in. Jack Carty added the conversion to once again take the hosts just out of range.
Now, into the dying moments of the game, the Dragons forced a penalty inside the Connacht half for Prydie to convert making the final score 29-23, giving the Dragons the losing bonus point.Final scores: Connacht 29 - Dragons 23