Connacht edge out Newport in dour affair
Connacht's push for a bonus point never materialised as two early tries proved just enough in a dour 14-9 Guinness PRO12 win over the Newport Gwent Dragons Dragons at the Sportsground.
An error-strewn second half saw Pat Lam's side held scoreless by the men of Gwent who, just a week on from their Cork hammering by Munster, came away with a deserved losing bonus point.
Connacht promised much with tries from man of the match Tiernan O'Halloran and Caolin Blade establishing a 14-0 lead after as many minutes. However, Angus O'Brien's boot cut the gap to 11 points for half-time and he landed two more penalties to set up a tense but scoreless finish.
Connacht's willingness to run the ball in damp conditions led to a breathless first five minutes, at the end of which Jack Carty's long flat pass freed up Matt Healy on the left wing and he linked inside with full-back O'Halloran for a well-worked opening try.
Craig Ronaldson converted and also added the extras to Blade's 12th-minute effort, the scrum half selling a dummy and darting through from the edge of the 22 after John Muldoon and Denis Buckley had combined to win turnover ball.
Following his early entry into the game for Dorian Jones, young replacement O'Brien opened the Dragons' account with a 17th minute penalty before a scrappy spell saw Connacht lose some hard-earned territory.
A terrific move involving Connacht backs and forwards was spoiled by a knock-on by Sean O'Brien near the right touchline - and Tom Farrell, who was making his first start for Connacht, did likewise after an interception by his centre partner Ronaldson.
The hosts should have added to their lead before the break, but Dragons kicker O'Brien reduced the arrears to eight points with an early penalty on the restart.
Further opportunities went begging for Connacht - a maul infringement letting them down in the visitors' 22 - and O'Brien's boot kept Kingsley Jones' charges in it, notching a third penalty success after good work at the breakdown by replacement Cory Hill.
There were try-saving interventions at both ends as the play became looser, Dragons' Tyler Morgan being held up near the left corner before his centre partner Adam Warren had to react quickly to stop Matt Healy from scoring via Farrell's kick through.
Although their scrum grew in influence, Connacht's lineout let them down when Nick Crosswell produced a crucial steal.
The hosts were left holding on to their five-point buffer as John Cooney's late kick-chase try was ruled out - replays showed he was ahead of kicker Healy.