Elwood men cruise to win
Connacht coach Eric Elwood is hopeful that the style they produced for 50 minutes in this clash will encourage his charges to cut loose when they head to London next weekend to take on Harlequins in the Heineken Cup.
Connacht have nothing to lose in their encounter with the English champions and after a disappointing run of four defeats in the RaboDirect PRO12, they showed what they are capable of when blowing away an admittedly poor Dragons outfit at the Sportsground on Saturday night.
It was a good way to kick off 2013 and with a new coach likely to be announced soon – Pat Lam is the man by all accounts, after Alex King and Sean Holley apparently went cold on the idea – Connacht will hope it is a good omen for the year ahead.
The win puts some daylight between these two sides at the foot of the table when, once again, the displays of Dave McSharry in the centre and 19-year old full-back Robbie Henshaw gave Connacht a touch of class that the Dragons could not match.
The only victory by Dragons in their last eight league matches was a 14-3 win over Connacht at Rodney Parade at the end of November, but it was clear from early on in ideal conditions on Saturday night that Elwood’s men were dominant.
Their power up front yielded a penalty try while Dragons struggled to contain the strong running of Henshaw, McSharry and winger Fetu’u Vainikolo.
McSharry set up No.8 George Naoupu for a second try while the trusty boot of Dan Parks kept the scoreboard ticking over, although there was a disruption when Naoupu was stretchered off after a blow to the head – the injury was not as serious as initially feared – just after the half hour mark.
Penalties either side of the break by Tom Prydie suggested a Dragons revival but Henshaw and McSharry sliced the visitors’ defence to send winger Danie Poolman over in the right corner after 45 minutes.
Connacht should have pushed on from there and secured a second try bonus point of the campaign but Dragons – playing their third game in 12 days and due to play away to Bayonne on Thursday night – somehow found their reserves to produce a solid closing half hour.
Connacht: Pen try, G Naoupu, D Poolman tries; D Parks 3 cons, 2 pens, 1 drop.
Dragons: J Evans try; T Prydie 2 pens.
Connacht: R Henshaw; D Poolman, E Griffin (T O’Halloran 62), D McSharry, F
Vainikolo; D Parks (M Jarvis 70), K Marmion (P O’Donohoe 45); D Buckley (B
Wilkinson 53), J Harris-Wright (E Reynecke 62), N White (N White 53); M
Swift (M Kearney 62), M McCarthy; A Browne, E McKeon, G Naoupu (E Grace 31).
Dragons: H Amos; T Prydie, A Hughes, A Tuilagi, T Chavhanga (J Dixon 56); L
Robling (A Smith), W Evans; P Price (O Evans 59), S Parry (H Gustafson 59),
N Buck (D Way 59); A Coombs; R Sidoli (A Jones 59); L Evans (T Brown 53; J
Evans 71), N Cudd, T Faletau.
Referee: Andrew MacMenemy (SRU)