Connacht claim win despite Hibbz treble
Dragons suffered a frustrating 20-30 defeat to the hands of Connacht in an entertaining contest at Rodney Parade - despite a hat-trick from hooker Richard Hibbard on his 50th appearance for the region.
Hibbard’s three tries, plus five points from the boot of Sam Davies, were not enough for the home side as Connacht made it three in a row against the Newport based region.
Connacht earned a bonus point victory with tries from winger Matt Healy, Number Eight Abraham Papali’I, scrum half Caolin Blade and centre Tom Daly, plus ten points from the boot of fly half Jack Carty sealed the victory.
The Irish province have made it four away wins on the bounce in the Guinness PRO14 for the first time since 2002, while the Dragons have yet to win since their dramatic league victory of Glasgow in December.
Dragons begun the more positive and were rewarded with the first points of the game thanks to the boot of Davies, after he was tackled high by his opposite number Carty.
Both teams were looking to play in the opening 10 minutes with Connacht building pressure in the Dragons half and following a penalty, the away side took it to the corner.
The result ended in a try for Healy after a well worked lineout led to a cross field kick from fly half Carty and the wing went over the whitewash untouched. Carty missing the extras.
Dragons kept given the visitors easy field position due to some indiscipline and following another kick to the corner, a well worked Connacht line out move allowed back row Papali’i use his power to bundle his way over the try line. Carty again missed the extras.
After ten minutes on the back foot, Dragons forced their way back into the game with some strong carrying by the pack and following a Jack Dixon break managed to earn another penalty. This time they followed in the opposition footsteps and went to the corner, despite the potential of an easy three points on offer.
The risk was rewarded with a wonderful driving maul that saw hooker Hibbard going over the line to celebrate his half century of Dragons appearance with his first-ever try for the club.
Dragons looked to build again with Ben Carter forcing a penalty with a fantastic jackal following some indecision in the Connacht pack.
Connacht were on the back foot at the lineout and brought another powerful Dragons maul down illegally before some fantastic defence at the next set piece allowed them to clear their lines.
Just after the half hour mark prop Finlay Bealham was sent to the sin bin, with referee Craig Evans running out of patience with the Connacht defence.
Once more Dragons went to the corner and their patience was rewarded as they made the extra man count with another driving maul try and that man Hibbard over the line for his second of the night, Davies missed the extras and the score remained 13-10 to the Dragons.
On the stroke of half time Connacht managed to level things up thanks to the boot of Carty following some indiscipline from the home side.
Connacht started the second half brightly and after forcing the Dragons into some unforced errors, scrum half Caolin Blade went over for Connacht’s third try of the game, spotting a gap from a driving maul with Carty adding the extras.
Dragons once more powered their way back into the game with their third try of the match, Hibbard going over for his hat-trick after another dominant driving maul.
The back and forth game continued with Connacht once again heading into the lead as outside centre Daly ran a terrific angle and burst over the try line to seal a bonus point. Carty again added the conversion.
Carty looked to put the final nail in the coffin as he knocked over a drop goal with just over ten minutes to go to put Connacht into a ten-point lead.
Dragons tried forcing the issue late on, in order to seal two bonus points, but following some resolute defence by Connacht and a knock on, the game was over and the home side left Rodney Parade with nothing to show for their efforts.
4m Davies p 3-0
11m Healy t 3-5
17m Papali’i t 3-10
23m Hibbard t 8-10
33m Hibbard t 13-10
40m Carty p 13-13
46m Blade t Carty c 13-20
54m Hibbard t Davies c 20-20
61m Daly t Carty c 20-27
68m Carty dg 20-30
Dragons: Jordan Williams (lLewis 74), Owen Jenkins, Jack Dixon, Jamie Roberts (Owen 70), Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Baldwin 66); Brok Harris (Bateman 54), Richard Hibbard (Shipp 57), Lloyd Fairbrother (Coleman 74), Ben Carter, Joe Maksymiw (J. Davies 54), Huw Taylor, Ben Fry, Harrison Keddie (Evans 59)
Replacements: Ellis Shipp, Greg Bateman, Chris Coleman, Joe Davies, Lewis Evans, Luke Baldwin, Josh Lewis, Aneurin Owen.
Connacht: John Porch, Peter Sullivan, Tom Daly, Peter Robb (O'Brien 15), Matt Healy (Wooton 66), Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (Marmion 59), Denis Buckley (Duggan 57), Shane Delahunt (Murphy 67), Finlay Bealham (Aungier 53), Niall Murray (Dowling 54), Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Conor Oliver, Abraham Papali’i (Aungier 36-42 (Masterson 46))
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Oisin Dowling, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Sean O’Brien, Alex Wootton.
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU, 17th competition game)