League position: 8th
European position: 3rd
Stadium: The Sportsground
This season hasn’t been a success for the reigning pro12 champions, with only wins 5 from 10 matches leaving them 8th in the table. The men from Galway have already lost more games this season than they did for the whole of last season's campaign. However, the Irish province did beat the Blues 19 – 13 at the weekend, and as most teams know, the Sportsground is one tough place to win.
Connacht narrowly missed out on qualification to the knockout-stages after defeat to Toulouse in the final pool game. That defeat left the two teams on the same points; with the French side going through due to a better head-to-head record. Connacht did the double over Zebre and also recorded an impressive win over Wasps at home during the pool phase.
How to get to the stadium:
From the train station / city centre:
Galway Ceannt railway station is located in the city centre, around 2km from the Sportsground. You can walk from the station to the ground, although buses do run to the stadium from the city centre as well.
Getting to the Sportsground by car isn't convenient due to a lack of parking, but there are a few public car parks in the city centre that are within walking distance (approximately 15 minutes).
Best place to eat and drink (inside the stadium):
The Official Connacht Supporters Club have their own bar behind the Clan Terrace. It is called the Clan Bar and there are usually player interviews conducted there after the game. I have been told that food options are limited in and around the ground, so fans are advised to eat before going in.
Best place to eat and drink (outside the stadium):
Murty Rabbitt’s on Forster St is the Connacht Clan’s official home. There is a good food menu here, with various match day specials representing good value for money. If you want to chat to our hosts then this would be my recommendation.
Other pubs near the stadium are McSwiggans, The Skeff and O’Connells.
For food, McDonagh’s and Quay Street Kitchen are the best options and can be found on Shop Street.
What the Connacht fans think:
Dragons danger men:
The fans I have spoken with have all expressed their delight that Ashton Hewitt has been called up to the Wales squad. After scoring two tries in the victory at Rodney Parade, as well as many other scintillating performances, their feelings are certainly justified.
Angus O’Brien has been the other player that many Connacht fans have mentioned as one that could change the game.
Connacht danger men:
4 Connacht players have been called up to the Irish 6 nations squad. Despite this, their fans have upmost confidence in the players left to fill the void. The three I have been told to watch out for are Jake Heenan, Kieron Marmion and John Cooney.
From our game at Rodney Parade, I would also add Niyi Adelokun and Bundee Aki to the list of potential game changers.
In victory at the Blues last week, Tiernan O’Halloran was awarded the man of the match award after his 79th minute drop goal secured victory for Connacht. The Dragons will have to limit the full back's time and space in their own 22.
The Connacht fans I have spoken with have been very cagey about their chances. I have been told that before the start of the season, they would have expected a 5-pointer. Unfortunately, their season hasn’t been great so the general consensus is a narrow Connacht win.
I’ve said before that trips to Ireland are the toughest tests of the season. However, Connacht are in a bit of a rut and we need to capitalise. In victory at Rodney Parade, we got off the mark early and then held off a strong fightback for victory. If we can start early again then doubts immediately creep into the crowd.
From looking at Connacht’s results, it is apparent that points are at a premium for the Irish side. With the exception of the Italian sides, they have scored the fewest points in the league. If the Men of Gwent are clinical with their finishing, then they have a great chance of winning.
Both sides are missing a similar number of players to injury and 6 nations call ups, so this game could be very close.
Connacht 12 – 17 Dragons
Ryan Robinson – Dragons Community Ambassador
(Special mention to Kieran from the Connacht Clan for his help)