WALES lock Ben Carter was sent off for a high tackle as the Dragons suffered another narrow defeat to United Rugby Championship play-off hopefuls Connacht.

Dai Flanagan’s men pushed the Irish province to the limit but suffered a 34-27 loss, having to settle for a consolation bonus as they did when edged out by Edinburgh and Cardiff in Newport.

Centre Steff Hughes, scrum-half Rhodri Williams and wing Rio Dyer all crossed for the Dragons with Cai Evans kicking 12 points.

However, the key moment came when Carter was dismissed in the 70th minute with the scores tied at 27-27 for a shoulder-to-head tackle.

That allowed Connacht to regain the lead and hold on for a crucial five-point haul thanks to tries by Shamus Hurley-Langton, Finlay Bealham, John Porch, Dave Heffernan and Dylan Tierney-Martin.

The Dragons, meanwhile, must lick their wounds before their final home game of the season against the Stormers, which is followed by derbies against the Ospreys and Scarlets.

Their bonus did mean that Flanagan’s men move a point clear of bottom club Zebre Parma and back within a point of the Scarlets in the battle to avoid being Wales’ worst side.

South Wales Argus: MILESTONE: Elliot Dee leads out the DragonsMILESTONE: Elliot Dee leads out the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Wales international hooker Elliot Dee led out Dragons to celebrate his 150th appearance for the region, but his side soon fell behind to a third-minute try.

Two kicking errors from Rhodri Williams gifted Connacht a platform in the home 22 from where the forwards exerted pressure for Hurley-Langton to force his way over.

Dragons’ response was almost immediate when from a pre-planned move, captain Hughes sailed through a huge gap in the Connacht defence for an excellent individual try after using Aaron Wainwright as a decoy.

The visitors were hit by two injury blows in the first 15 minutes with forwards Dennis Buckley and Cian Prendergast both departing, but they overcame these setbacks to regain the lead.

Matt Devine made a dart to put Dragons on the back foot, with Bealham up in support to crash over.

Worse was to follow for the hosts as they soon conceded a third try. The concession of frequent penalties gave Connacht easy territory and they capitalised when a long pass from Bundee Aki provided Porch with an easy walk-in.

Dragons badly needed a reply before the interval to keep in contention and they got one when Williams ran strongly to score, with a touchline conversion from Evans leaving them 19-14 behind at half-time.

South Wales Argus: DELIGHT: The Dragons celebrate Rio Dyer's tryDELIGHT: The Dragons celebrate Rio Dyer's try (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Wales number eight Wainwright failed to return for the restart and within minutes Dee was sin-binned for persistent team infringements.

It immediately proved costly as Heffernan collected the bonus-point try by finishing off a driving line-out.

Evans reduced the arrears with a penalty and, with Dee still in the sin bin, they drew level when Dyer won the race to touch down a clever kick ahead from Jordan Williams.

Former Dragon JJ Hanrahan and Evans exchanged simple penalties before the Connacht fly-half was carried off the pitch on a stretcher with a leg injury.

However, Carter was dismissed for a high tackle on wing Shane Jennings and Connacht went for the corner, powering over with their well-drilled driving lineout.

The Dragons pushed for a late leveller but were unable to turn one point into three.

Dragons: Jordan Williams, Rio Dyer, Steff Hughes, Aneurin Owen (Joe Westwood 74), Ewan Rosser (James Benjamin 52-55), Cai Evans, Rhodri Williams (Che Hope 74); Rhodri Jones (Rodrigo Martinez 58-71), Elliot Dee, Chris Coleman, Ben Carter, Matthew Screech, Sean Lonsdale, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright (George Nott 40).
Scorers: tries - Hughes, Williams, Dyer; conversions - Evans (3); penalties - Evans (2).

Connacht scorers: tries - Hurley-Langton, Bealham, Porch, Heffernan, Tierney-Martin; conversions - Hanrahan (2), Forde; penalty - Hanrahan.

Referee: Federico Vedovelli (Italy).

Attendance: 4,212.