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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 16:18 GMT
Dragons down Connacht
CELTIC LEAGUE
Ian Gough helps Steve Jones over for the opening try
Dragons (18) 28
Tries: S Jones, B Breeze, H Luscombe. Cons: L Jarvis (2). Pens: Jarvis (3).
Connacht (3) 19
Try: B Jackman. Con: M McHugh. Pens: McHugh (4).
Att: 3,057
The Dragons moved above Connacht to second in the league as they maintained their 100% home record with a battling win over the Irish province at Rodney Parade.

The home side were in charge for long periods, fly-half Lee Jarvis slotting 13 points and Steve Jones, Ben Breeze and Hal Luscombe crossing for tries.

But a second-half fightback from Connacht - for whom centre Mark McHugh kicked 14 points - denied the Dragons a fourth try and the bonus point that would have taken them top of the league.

A boon for the home side was the debut appearances of World Cup-stars Rod Snow and Ross Beattie, plus Wales lock Michael Owen, returning after a back injury that ruled him out of a trip to Australia.

The three forwards all came on as second-half substitutes.

Jarvis, a last-minute replacement for Craig Warlow, opened the scoring with a simple sixth-minute penalty.

Chances followed at both ends, but the scorers were not further troubled for half an hour.

A scrum underneath the Connacht posts broke into a punch-up, and in the aftermath Irish flanker Michael Swift was sent to the sin bin for punching. Jarvis made no mistake with the resultant penalty.

Dragons lock Peter Sidoli saw yellow soon after for coming in at the wrong side of a ruck, and from the penalty McHugh narrowed the gap to 6-3.

As the first half looked like ending try-less, a break from Dragons centre Steve Winn was taken forward and saw hooker Steve Jones plunging over from short range.

Steve Winn
Winn formed a dangerous centre partnership with Hal Luscombe
The visitors were seething as they believed there was a knock-on in the build-up to the score, but the Dragons rubbed salt into the wound with a second try four minutes into injury time.

Good line-out ball was fed to the Dragons' backs and after some excellent passing in midfield wing Breeze was able to cross in the corner.

Connacht could have folded, but the Irish battlers fired back in the second period and narrowed the gap to six points at one stage.

Captain and hooker Bernard Jackman crossed for a try, and McHugh kicked three penalties and a conversion in the final 40 minutes.

But Luscombe, who formed an impressive centre partnership with Winn, crossed for the Dragons' third try to keep them in control.

We have a siege mentality and are determined to stay unbeaten at home
Ben Breeze
With the score at 25-19 in the closing stages the Dragons were tempted to run a penalty and go for the bonus point, but pragmatism prevailed and Jarvis kicked his final goal to seal the game.

After the game, try-scorer Ben Breeze said the off-field problems of the Dragons - who are currently in administration - had helped to focus the team.

"With all the negative things going on it has just gelled us together even more," Breeze told BBC Sport Wales.

"We have a siege mentality and are determined to stay unbeaten at home. There are no egoes in this team, everyone is just pulling together.

"People never expected a new squad like ours to be so high in the league at this stage of the season.

"It wasn't our best performance against Connacht, but you can't take anything away from them, they battled hard throughout."


Dragons: S Tuipulotu; N Brew, H Luscombe, S Winn, B Breeze; L Jarvis, G Baber; A Black, S Jones, C Anthony, I Gough, P Sidoli, J Ringer, J Forster (capt), R Oakley.
Replacements: P Young, R Snow, M Owen, R Beattie, R Jones, C Warlow, G Arasa.

Connacht: Matt Mostyn; Conor McPhillips, Darren Yapp, Mark McHugh, Wayne Munn; David Hewitt, Mike Walls; Dan McFarland, Bernard Jackman (capt), Adrian Clarke, Damian Browne, Andrew Farley, Michael Swift, Tom Carter, John O'Sullivan.
Replacements: John Fogarty, Fabien Boiroux, Mike McCarthy, Matt Lacey, Conor O'Loughlin, Eric Elwood, Ted Robinson.

Referee: Andrew Ireland (Scotland)




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