Celtic League: Friday, January 28The Borders 9 Connacht 18, NetherdaleScorers: Borders: Pens: Ally Warnock 3 Connacht: Tries: Paul Warwick, John Fogarty; Con: Warwick; Pen: Mark McHugh; Drop gl: David Slemen
Australian Warwick took his league tally up to 102 points - becoming the sixth player in this year's tournament to breach the century - as the westerners vaulted over idle Ulster into seventh in the standings.
The race for the highly-valued Heineken Cup play-off spot is certainly heating up - with Edinburgh also moving up to eighth after defeating Cardiff 17-12 away - and Michael Bradley's men look to be right in the thick of it, with the sixth-placed Scarlets due to visit Dubarry Park on February 18th.
Connacht had to wait until Mark McHugh's 74th-minute penalty to really see off the Borders, after Welsh referee Tim Hayes' crucial sin-binning of the hosts' number eight Wayne McEntee saw the Scots challenge falter.
At that stage, three Ally Warnock penalties had brought it back to a 15-9 deficit.
A neat lineout take from Connacht's eight John O'Sullivan - also yellow carded late on - paved the way for Warwick's opener. Halfbacks Tom Tierney and David Slemen combined to send McHugh - making his first league start since November - crashing through on 13 minutes, and second phase ball saw Warwick dart over in the right corner.
He tagged on the conversion before ex-Orrell fly half Slemen pocketed a nifty nineteenth minute drop goal.
While New Zealander McEntee forced a 27th-minute penalty out of Connacht for Warnock to clip over, it was the visitors who ended the half on song, and with a 15-3 buffer.
Ex-Munster hooker Fogarty pocketed his first league try of the season in injury time, crossing after a quick penalty and lineout drive.
Warnock reduced the deficit after the break, but even with Connacht's O'Sullivan in the sin-bin, Connacht held on for a vital away win - their third success in their eighth league road trip.
Afterwards, Borders coach Steve Bates admitted the Irish visitors were the better side.
"We lost to the better team. Connacht played with a lot more intensity in the first half, and that was what mattered in the end," said Bates, the former Newcastle Falcons supremo who was gunning for a record fourth straight home win with the Scots.
"Connacht are a good side - they play very well together. During the week, we said not to under-estimate them, but perhaps we did. Sub-consciously the talk of four-in-a-row probably hit us. Also missing our Scotland internationals meant we were understrength, but that's not an excuse for losing."
Replacements used: Stephen Knoop for Bracken (45 mins), Chris Keane for Tierney (51), Dan McFarland for Hogan (60), Brendan O'Connor for O'Sullivan (79). Not used: Bernard Jackman, Pieter Myburgh, Ted Robinson.
Yellow cards: Wayne McEntee (Borders); John O'Sullivan (Connacht)HT: Borders 3 Connacht 15; Attendance: 1,176 Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)