Early tries see Connacht home
PRO12 REPORT: First-half tries for Tiernan O'Halloran and Caolin Blade set reigning Pro12 champions Connacht up for a 14-9 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.
Newport haven't won away this season and faced an uphill battle as hosts Connacht led 14-0 after 12 minutes thanks to O'Halloran and Blade crossing.
And while three Angus O'Brien penalties wasn't enough for the Dragons to end their woes on the road, it did earn Kingsley Jones' men a deserved losing bonus point.
The game begun at a frantic pace and just four minutes in fullback O'Halloran was sent under the posts after a superb wide ball saw Matt Healy race down the left for the opening try.
Craig Ronaldson added the easy extras and although the visitors came back fighting Connacht doubled their lead on 12 minutes as scrumhalf Blade waltzed over on the right-hand side.
Centre Ronaldson once again converted but the Dragons were on the board on 17 minutes as O'Brien - who had replaced Dorian Jones shortly before - slotted a penalty.
Newport centre Tyler Morgan then looked to race away to the tryline but a knock-on in the build up stopped him in his tracks.
But Connacht were also looking dangerous and after a high tackle by Rynard Landman the hosts looked to go over in the corner but the Dragons managed to turn the ball over.
The home side continued to press but a Sean O'Brien knock on inside the visitors' 22 after the half-hour mark ended that chance, while Ronaldson intercepted an Angus O'Brien pass only for the replacement fly-half to come back and tackle him.
Just a minute after the break Angus O'Brien knocked over his second penalty of the game to reduce the arrears for Connacht.
And on 52 minutes Angus O'Brien was at it again following an offside as the Dragons trailed by just five points.
The visitors continued to push and were camped on the Connacht line, but a big scrum from the hosts earned them a penalty.
Just after the hour mark Connacht turned down a kick at the posts and were made to rue that decision as from the following line-out Nick Crosswell won the ball back for Newport.
Newport Gwent Dragons were digging deep defensively as Connacht knock on the door, but they looked to have been undone with three minutes remaining as replacement scrum-half John Cooney went over.
However, it was ruled out for offside and the Dragons picked up a deserved losing bonus point.
Tries: O'Halloran, Blade
Cons: Ronaldson 2
For Newport Gwent Dragons:
Pens: O'Brien 3
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 JP Cooney, 19 James Cannon, 20 Nepia Fox-Matamua, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Steve Crosbie, 23 Rory Parata.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Tom Prydie, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Lewis Evans (captain),7 Nic Cudd, 6 Ollie Griffiths, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Nick Crosswell, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Angus O'Brien, 23 Sam Beard.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)