Dragons claim vital victory
Newport Gwent Dragons moved further clear of bottom club Zebre with a home 14-3 victory over Connacht in the RaboDirect Pro12.
Patrick Leach's try and a hat-trick of penalties from Tom Prydie were enough to give the home side a third win of the season. The visitors, who only had Dan Parks' first-half penalty to show for their efforts, are now only one point better off than their opponents.
The Irish province did the double over the Dragons last season, including a well-earned win at Rodney Parade, but never looked likely to repeat the trick when they fell a score behind early in the second half.
The Dragons headed into the game on the back of seven successive defeats, while Connacht - whose captain Gavin Duffy was making his first start of the season - were chasing back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
The Irish province had not been in action since beating Treviso at the start of the month while the hosts had been in action at the same venue just five days earlier when beaten by Northampton in the LV= Cup.
Yet the visitors showed no signs of rust when dominating the early proceedings, although all they could show for their dominance was Parks' fourth minute penalty. However, that was as good as it got for the visitors, who were hindered by mistakes and also found themselves on the wrong side of Italian referee Giuseppe Vivarini too often.
The Irishmen were adapting better to the awful conditions but it was level-pegging on 25 minutes when Dragons full-back Prydie kicked his first penalty, with Connacht hooker Jason Harris-Wright sin-binned in the process.
And the visitors were under pressure when back row forward Andrew Brown was also yellow-carded. The Dragons took their chance and had an 8-3 half-time lead when centre Leach slid over in the left-hand corner. And the hosts were in total command with half an hour left when a Prydie brace had them 14-3 ahead.
Connacht were given a chance when Dragons captain and flanker Lewis Evans became the third man to be sent to the sin-bin. But they were far too error-strewn to make their sudden dominance of possession and territory count, with a number of scrums and lineouts close to the Dragons' line going to waste.
And the Welsh side kept defending their line with gusto until the final whistle to notch their third victory of a troubled campaign.