We tried to fix things individually rather than sticking to the system, laments Friend
At the end of a pulsating game, it was left to Andy Friend and Jack Carty to attempt to make sense of how Connacht managed to let a 17-point lead slip with 10 minutes left on the clock.
To their credit, neither man skirted around the fact that it was a dream position and Connacht should have been good enough to go on and claim their first win over Leinster in Dublin in 16 years; instead, they somehow threw it away.
The body language of the players at full-time spoke volumes as they didn’t seem to quite understand what had just happened.
For 70 minutes, Connacht were the better team. Some of their attacking play was a joy to watch and with Carty brilliantly conducting the orchestra, they looked certain to go on and end their barren run.
The last 10 minutes will give the Westerners nightmares for some time, but Friend is hoping that his players learn from this bitterly disappointing experience.
“We actually didn’t send many messages out – we tend not to send many messages out,” Friend explained.
“We do a lot of talking through the week and we put a lot of trust and faith in the players out there.
“They know what they are meant to be doing. If anything we probably tried to fix things individually rather than sticking to the system.
“It’s one of questions we will talk to the game leaders about – what was our talk like? And I imagine it was pretty good.”
Carty had twice lit up the contest, scoring a sensational try and brilliantly creating another for Caolin Blade before he nervelessly fired over a 64th-minute penalty to push Connacht into a 29-12 lead.
The visitors had silenced the home crowd, and you expected them to see the game out, but they retreated into their shells and froze.
“I suppose after I struck that kick, 15 minutes left, 17 points up, you would generally think that you would see out the game from there – it was just one of those days,” Carty said.
“It was just about getting our exit right. The way Leinster set up, they cover the pitch quite well.
“You are looking to play your forwards to try to find space down the middle because they generally don’t give you kick space to the touchline. We did that and then it was about doing our defensive set after that. It was generally calm.”
Carty (26) is in the form of his career and his man-of-the-match performance did not deserve to see him end up on the losing team.
For all that Connacht buckled under the relentless pressure from Leinster in the closing stages, Carty’s stunning solo try typified the joyous attacking flair on show.
“I think tonight is the first time we really saw some real carries that dented (the defence),” Friend added.
“We’ve been keen to push the officiating on making sure tacklers release and making sure we get quick ball.
“A lot of that was due to good, strong carries that we were punching in behind, but you give any team quick ball, you can hurt them.
“We’ve players set to go and we’ve an attacking structure that will hurt you. We’ll keep working on that and hopefully keep scoring lots of tries.”
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