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McHugh Boots Connacht To Heartening Win

McHugh Boots Connacht To Heartening Win

Five penalties from six attempts for converted out-half Mark McHugh was enough for bottom side Connacht to see off the Dragons at the Sportsground and earn some crucial Celtic League points.

…Kiwi centre Gavin Williams on the charge at the Sportsground…

Five penalties from six attempts for converted out-half Mark McHugh was enough for bottom side Connacht to see off the Dragons at the Sportsground and earn some crucial Celtic League points.

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CELTIC LEAGUE: Saturday, April 15

CONNACHT 15 NEWPORT-GWENT DRAGONS 10, The Sportsground (Att: 1,800)

Scorers: Connacht: Pens: Mark McHugh 5

Dragons: Try: Luke Charteris; Con: Craig Warlow; Pen: Warlow

Connacht celebrated back-to-back wins in the Celtic League for the first time since November 2004 as McHugh turned in a man-of-the-match display in Galway.

Dragons lock Luke Charteris scored the only try on a sunny afternoon, but McHugh’s right boot decided the affair to help the province to a third win in four League outings.

Missing captain and lock Andrew Farley (back) and impressive centre Keith Matthews (leg) through injury and facing a Dragons side containing nine Welsh internationals, Connacht might have been expected to struggle.

But against the wind, the westerners played a good deal of the rugby and were unfortunate to be 10-6 down at the interval.

One-cap Ireland international McHugh slotted in at number 10 in a reworked back-line – Paul Warwick lined out at full-back – and kept Connacht on the move with a series of booming touch finders. Having drawn an early drop goal shot wide, McHugh opened the scoring with an eighth-minute penalty from 38 metres out.

The Dragons, looking for their first win in eight trips across the Irish sea, replied with a try from Charteris – the League’s tallest player (6ft 9in) notched his first score of the campaign. Warwick tried to work the ball out of the Connacht 22, was tap-tackled by Ian Gough and his fellow lock Charteris gobbled up possession to make the corner.

Fly half Craig Warlow converted and he kicked a 33rd-minute penalty – replying to McHugh’s second – to chalk up his 100th point in the League this season and push Paul Turner’s outfit into a 10-6 lead.

With the wind though, Connacht wasted little time in taking the lead. McHugh arced over a quick brace of penalties on 45 and 49 minutes to punish the Dragons for ruck offences.

12-10 in front, Michael Bradley’s host began to dominate but a try eluded them on a couple of occasions – had New Zealand centre Gavin Williams not knocked on in a late attack, it might have been a different scenario.

Warwick pushed a drop goal attempt wide from the halfway line and with a two-point advantage, Connacht nerves were left jangling until McHugh’s fifth successful kick – nine minutes into injury-time.
In the race for the Heineken Cup qualification play-off spot, Connacht are now four points behind the ninth-placed Dragons, who have two games in hand.

TIME LINE: 8 minutes – Connacht penalty: Mark McHugh – 3-0; 16 mins – Dragons try: Luke Charteris – 3-5; conversion: Craig Warlow – 3-7; 27 mins – Connacht penalty: Mark McHugh – 6-7; 33 mins – Dragons penalty: Craig Warlow – 6-10; 40+4 mins – Dragons penalty: missed by Craig Warlow; Half-time – Connacht 6 Dragons 10; 45 mins – Connacht penalty: Mark McHugh – 9-10; 49 mins – Connacht penalty: Mark McHugh – 12-10; 80+9 mins – Connacht penalty: Mark McHugh – 15-10; Full-time – Connacht 15 Dragons 10

CONNACHT: Paul Warwick; Matt Mostyn, Andrew Mailei, Gavin Williams, Darren Yapp; Mark McHugh, Chris Keane; Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, Stephen Knoop, Christian Short, David Gannon, Mike Swift, John Muldoon, Colm Rigney.

Replacements used: Adrian Clarke for Hogan (60 mins), Conor McPhillips for Mailei (64), David Slemen for Yapp (78), Tom Tierney for Keane (80+7). Not used: Joe Merrigan, Andrew Gallagher, Matt Lacey.

DRAGONS: Aled Thomas; Gareth Wyatt, Jon Bryant, Ceri Sweeney, Nathan Brew; Craig Warlow, Gareth Baber; Adam Black, Steve Jones, Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, Luke Charteris, Jamie Ringer, Jason Forster (capt), Michael Owen.

Replacements used: Ben Breeze for A Thomas (50 mins), Rhys Oakley for Forster (55), David Maddocks for Black, Peter Sidoli for Charteris (both 67), Andrew Brown for Jones, James Ireland for Baber (both 72). Not used: Gethin Robinson.

Referee: David Changleng (Scotland)