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Connacht keep in URC play-off contention with thrilling victory against Dragons

27 Apr 2024 3 minute read
Rodney Parade picture by COYB01 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Connacht kept in contention for a United Rugby Championship play-off spot with a thrilling 34-27 victory against Dragons at Rodney Parade.

The Irish province always held the edge over spirited Dragons and the five points obtained leaves them firmly in the mix with three games remaining.

Shamus Hurley-Langton, Finlay Bealham, John Porch, Dave Heffernan and Dylan Tierney-Martin scored their tries, with J.J.Hanrahan converting two and adding a penalty. Cathal Forde also kicked a conversion.

Steff Hughes, Rhodri Williams and Rio Dyer scored Dragons’ tries, with Cai Evans converting all three and adding a penalty.

Wales international hooker Elliot Dee led out Dragons to celebrate his 150th appearance for the region, but his side soon fell behind to a third-minute try.

Kicking errors

Two kicking errors from Rhodri Williams gifted Connacht a platform in the home 22 from where the forwards exerted pressure for Hurley-Langton to force his way over.

Dragons’ response was almost immediate when from a pre-planned move, captain Hughes sailed through a huge gap in the Connacht defence for an excellent individual try.

The visitors were hit by two injury blows in the first 15 minutes with forwards Dennis Buckley and Cian Prendergast both departing, but they overcame these setbacks to regain the lead.

Matt Devine made a dart to put Dragons on the back foot, with Bealham up in support to crash over.

Worse was to follow for the hosts as they soon conceded a third try. The concession of frequent penalties gave Connacht easy territory and they capitalised when a long pass from Bundee Aki provided Porch with an easy walk-in.

Dragons badly needed a reply before the interval to keep in contention and they got one when Williams ran strongly to score, with a touchline conversion from Evans leaving them 19-14 behind at half-time.

Dragons’ star Aaron Wainwright failed to return for the restart and within minutes Dee was sin binned for persistent team infringements.

It immediately proved costly as Heffernan collected the bonus-point try by finishing off a driving line-out.

Evans reduced the arrears with a penalty and, with Dee still in the sin bin, they drew level when Dyer won the race to touch down a kick ahead from Jordan Williams.

Hanrahan and Evans exchanged simple penalties before the Connacht fly-half was carried off the pitch on a stretcher with a leg injury, but the Irish side finished the stronger with a try from Tierney-Martin securing victory.

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