Connacht pick up priceless away win
Fetu’u Vainikolo was the Connacht hero as they chalked up their first win in Wales in four years last Friday night.
The Tongan international raced in for a try in each half as Eric Elwood’s slayed the high-flying Dragons with a superb display at Rodney Parade.
The Connacht pack gave them a winning platform against a Dragons side who had won four out of their last five games and who had only lost twice at home all season in the RaboDirect PRO12.
And with out-half Miah Nikora in superb form, Connacht chalked up their biggest score of the campaign and nailed their first away win since the opening day of the season.
Dragons looked set to continue their recent good form when Lewis Robling settled them with a fourth minute penalty, but it was all Connacht after that for the remainder of the opening half.
Good pressure and a great burst by Vainikolo saw him race in for the opening try after ten minutes from the 22.
The Tongan, who only got his first try in the competition last month in the win over Edinburgh, always looked threatening.
But it was the boot of Nikora who kept the scoreboard ticking over, adding the convert and then three penalties in response to another effort from Robling to lead 16-6 after 29 minutes.
Six Nations star Dan Lydiate was binned to compound a dreadful opening half for the Welsh, with Nikora and Robling exchanging penalties before the break to leave it 19-9 at the interval.
Connacht’s hopes of securing only their second win in Wales in eight years soared within a minute of the restart when Vainikolo again broke through to touch down.
Nikora missed the convert and a penalty before Robling reduced the margin with a 50th minute penalty.
However, Nikora again responded for a fired-up Connacht side who lost prop Ronan Loughney to a yellow card on the hour.
Connacht managed to hold the home side until seven minutes from time when Toby Faletau crashed over, with Steffan Jones adding the points to leave eight between them and set up a nervous finish for Elwood’s men.
Dragons, roared on by a vociferous home crowd of 6,257, piled on the pressure but while Eoghan Grace was also binned in the closing stages for Connacht, the Welsh were unable to nab a bonus point with Jones missing a late penalty.
Pens: Robling (4)
Tries: Vainikolo (2)
Pens: Nikora (5)
Dragons: W Harries; T Chavanga, A Tuilagi, A Smith, A Brew; L Robling, W Evans; P Price, S Jones, N Buck; L Charteris, R Sidoli; D Lydiate, J Groves, T Faletau.
Replacements: S Jones for Parry, 63; N Williams for Price, 63; T Brown for Lydiate, 63; A Hughes for Tuilagi, 69
Connacht: G Duffy; F Vainikolo, K Tonetti, H Fa’afili, T O’Halloran; M Nikora, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Loughney; M Swift, M McCarthy; M Kearney, R Ofisa, J Muldoon.
Replacements: E McKeon for Kearney, 73; E Grace for Ofisa, 73; A Flavin for Reynecke, 78.
Referee: G Vivarini (Italy).