Dragons break their duck
Dragons break their duckSHARE
A scintillating first-half performance was enough to see off Connacht 21-8 at Rodney Parade.
The Welsh side had suffered defeats to Edinburgh and Leinster in their first two matches in the new-look competition, but bounced back to deservedly victory.
Connacht, who were coming off a 32-10 triumph over Southern Kings in Round Two, had won eight of the last nine games between the sides yet were caught cold by an imperious first-half Dragons display.
Hallam Amos finished off an incredible team try in the opening moments and Elliot Dee also got driven over as they racked up a 21-3 advantage by half-time.
Quinn Roux's score early in the second period could have sparked a comeback but the Dragons's defence remained solid as coach Bernard Jackman got one over the side he began his playing career with.
The Dragons won this fixture 21-16 last season and the lightning start they made at Rodney Parade suggested they fancied repeating the trick.
With just two minutes on the clock, a spectacular, flowing team move that began in their own half and included four offloads – including an incredible release by falling hooker Dee – was finished in the corner by Amos, although Gavin Henson failed to add the extras.
Jack Carty soon narrowed the deficit to 5-3 with a penalty right in front of the posts but the hosts demonstrated their attacking intent by booting a kickable 19th-minute penalty into the corner.
The resulting line-out ten metres from the line was duly won and an inexorable driving maul resulted in Dee being shoved over and dotting down. This time Henson made no mistake with the conversion.
Rather than sit back on their 12-3 advantage, the Welsh side continued to press – prop Brok Harris making a searing break that belied his 18-and-a-half stone frame and Henson slotting a pair of three-pointers just before the half-hour mark, the latter coming after Connacht's James Cannon was sin-binned.
The 33-cap Welsh international then converted a scrum penalty on the stroke of half-time to complete a sterling first period for the hosts.
Connacht improved in the early stages of the second half and they finally turned territory into points on 53 minutes as a well-taken line-out was driven forward, before Roux broke free to get over.
The try went unconverted but Kieran Keane's troops were soon on the attack again, Bundee Aki slicing through the home defence, although Jackman's side held firm and almost scored on the counter but Sarel Pretorius's kick ahead rolled agonisingly into touch.
The Irishmen set up camp in the home 22 in the final quarter as they looked for a route back into the game but turnover ball and a clearing kick from Amos at the death completed a job well done for the Dragons.
For Newport Gwent Dragons:
Tries: Amos, Dee
Pens: Henson 3
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 James Benjamin, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Cory Hill (captain), 4 Rynard Landman, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Robson Blake, 21 Owain Leonard, 22 Dorian Jones, 23 Jared Rosser.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 James Cannon, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Coulson.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Gavin Thornbury, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Steve Crosbie, 23 Eoin Griffin.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Rhys Thomas (Wales)
TMO: Clayton Thomas (Wales)