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RaboDirect Pro12: Connacht end run of eight league defeats
Dan Parks' late drop goal earned Connacht a 14-11 win against Newport Gwent Dragons at a rain-lashed Sportsground, their long-awaited second win of the RaboDirect PRO12 season.
Pat Lam's men had endured eight successive defeats since beating Zebre in round one back in September, falling to the bottom rung of the league table.
But despite going 8-0 down to the Dragons inside 16 minutes, Connacht - helped by a dominant scrum and line-out - fought their way to a gutsy three-point win.
Daniel Evans' early unconverted try was the difference between the sides at the break, the wind-backed Dragons establishing a 8-3 interval lead with Jason Tovey and Parks swapping penalties.
Two more successful kicks from Parks and Tovey followed and Lyn Jones' side maintained their 11-8 lead despite losing prop Owen Evans to the sin-bin.
But Connacht produced the stronger finish with Parks setting up replacement Fionn Carr for a 75th-minute try and then nailing his vital drop goal with just over a minute left.
The sixth-minute withdrawal of centre David McSharry, who picked up an ankle injury, forced Connacht to shuffle their back-line with Carr introduced and both Robbie Henshaw and Gavin Duffy making positional switches.
It was Henshaw's missed tackle that allowed Ross Wardle to break through midfield in the eighth minute and tee up full-back Evans for his five-pointer.
Tovey, who had missed an earlier penalty, was back on target with a 16th minute penalty as the Welsh region kept pressing with a strong wind at their backs.
However, Connacht then used their solid scrum to build some momentum, with youngsters Eoin McKeon and Michael Kearney both prominent in the set-pieces.
A scrum penalty allowed Parks to knock over a 33rd minute penalty and as the strength of the wind dropped noticeably, Connacht's forwards exerted more influence with the visitors' chances to attack curtailed.
The gap was down to just two points after Parks kicked a penalty early in the second half, punishing young lock Cory Hill for being caught offside.
A good spell of possession saw the Dragons hit back with Tovey left-footing a long range penalty, but a yellow card was looming for the visitors as their own penalty count increased.
Loosehead prop Owen Evans was the man to see yellow on the hour mark, referee Alain Rolland sin-binning him for a foot trip. However, the home side suffered further frustration when Parks failed to convert the resulting penalty.
The Dragons kept it simple during a weather-beaten final quarter, with number eight Toby Faletau leading by example in terms of his sharpness on the ball.
But Connacht - driven on by man-of-the-match John Muldoon - pounced for a levelling try with five minutes left, Parks' deft crossfield kick being dotted down by the unmarked Carr out wide.
The former Scotland international narrowly missed his conversion attempt to the left, however, and Connacht needed to work their way downfield to set up a second shot at the posts for him - and he delivered.
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Friday 26th December|
|14:05||Cardiff Blues vs Dragons|
|17:00||Munster vs Leinster|
|18:45||Ulster vs Connacht|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:40||Glasgow Warriors vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Ospreys vs Scarlets|
|Sunday 28th December|
|14:00||Zebre vs Treviso|
|Thursday 1st January|
|14:05||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues|
|17:00||Connacht vs Munster|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Zebre|
|14:40||Leinster vs Ulster|
|17:05||Scarlets vs Ospreys|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:35||Connacht vs Edinburgh|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:40||Cardiff Blues vs Leinster|
|15:00||Zebre vs Munster|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Ulster|
|16:00||Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Wednesday 14th January|
|TBC||Leinster vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Scarlets vs Connacht|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Ulster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Zebre vs Glasgow|
|TBC||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 21st February|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Dragons 25 - 11 Zebre|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Ospreys 31 - 20 Ulster|
|Glasgow Warriors 21 - 18 Munster|
|Friday 19th December|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 9 Scarlets|
|Edinburgh 48 - 0 Treviso|
|Leinster 21 - 11 Connacht|
|Sunday 30th November|
|Glasgow Warriors 19 - 15 Dragons|
|Saturday 29th November|
|Connacht 14 - 8 Scarlets|
|Leinster 18 - 12 Ospreys|
|Zebre 18 - 10 Edinburgh|
|Friday 28th November|
|Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 Treviso|
|Munster 21 - 20 Ulster|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff Blues|
|Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster|
|Friday 21st November|
|Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys|
|Connacht 43 - 3 Zebre|
|Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors|
|Dragons 12 - 38 Munster|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com