CONNACHT 30 DRAGONS 11
ANOTHER miserable away day for Newport Gwent Dragons in the RaboDirect Pro12 was compounded by an ankle injury for back- row forward Tom Brown.
The 29-year-old number eight has been one of the region’s star performers this season and will be expected to play a prominent role in the absence of Toby Faletau during the Six Nations.
Whether he is able to do that will depend on his recovery from an injury to his right ankle that forced him from the field in the closing stages of the Dragons’ 30-11 beating by Connacht on Saturday night.
Brown fell awkwardly at a lineout, and though a scan revealed there is no fracture he will miss Thursday’s Amlin Challenge Cup clash in Bayonne while medical staff assess the full extent of the damage.
It was already going to be an evening to forget at the Sportsground in Galway, but Brown’s blow added to the ailing region’s woe.
The result leaves the Dragons 11th in the Pro12 table, six points back on Connacht with just winless Zebre beneath them.
And the Italian whipping boys, who came agonisingly close to beating the Ospreys in Swansea last Friday when beaten 16-15 by the champions, won’t have given up hope of reeling them in.
They are eight points back and will be eyeing up the clash in Parma on February 24 as a golden chance of recording their first ever win.
That is because the Dragons are yet to taste victory on their Pro12 travels this season and have managed just one point in seven games, a bonus in defeat against Cardiff Blues when they should have won.
“It was a massively disappointing performance in Galway and we didn’t carry on where we left off in the Christmas derbies,” said head coach Darren Edwards.
“In the first 20 minutes we looked like a side playing its third game in 10 days, we lacked intensity and Connacht really came at us hard, pinned us back and built a lead.
“We looked flat and jaded and as coaches we will have to reflect on that quickly and think about what we should have done differently, because we’ve got another quick turnaround with one day of training before we fly out to Bayonne.”
Saturday’s defeat to a Connacht side that had lost their previous four fixtures was a humbling one.
That the Dragons’ only remaining target for the final half-hour was to deny their hosts a four-try bonus point emphasises the severity of the defeat.
The Irish province led 20-3 at the break thanks to a penalty try earned by a strong scrummage, a try by number eight George Naoupu and 10 points from the boot of former Blues fly-half Dan Parks.
Dragons wing Tom Prydie kicked a penalty either side of half-time but Connacht were in total command when South African wing Danie Poolman finished off a counter-attack.
The Dragons did at least cross the whitewash at the death when young scrum-half Jonathan Evans scored his first league try, but the score did little to disguise a drubbing in the west of Ireland.