Wednesday 18 September 2019

Friend hails composure

Connacht coach Andy Friend. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht coach Andy Friend. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht coach Andy Friend praised his understrength side for the way they secured five points at Stade Aimé Giral on Friday night. The win keeps their European Challenge Cup hopes alive as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the 11th time.

"I'm really pleased. We had to weather a fair storm from Perpignan in the opening 15 minutes and then again for about 20 minutes at the start of the second half. But we did that and I was really pleased with the composure and the way we came back. To get five tries on Perpignan at their home stadium is a good effort," said the Australian.

Tries from skipper Dave Heffernan and Seán O'Brien helped Connacht to a 22-8 lead at the break after Paddy Jackson, who faded after a bright opening, had set up an early Perpignan try.

Perpignan hit back with two tries early in the second half but Connacht sealed the win and bonus point when Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher crossed in the closing stages.

"We managed to find our composure to close out the game and a few of the reserves who came on gave us a spark," added Friend. "It's a brilliant experience for our young fellas and to learn how to win away from home is really important.

"All along we said we would just try to control what we can do. There is one more game at home against Sale and then away to Bordeaux so we will just concentrate on those and see where it takes us," added the coach, who was without all four current Irish internationals for the trip.

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