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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 25 May, 2020

'To win in France is a great achievement': Friend and Connacht march on

The western province snatched a dramatic comeback win over Bordeaux to book their place in the Challenge Cup last eight.

Bundee Aki celebrates Connacht's win.
Bundee Aki celebrates Connacht's win.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend said he always believed his men could secure the victory they needed in Bordeaux to advance to the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup for the tenth time.

Connacht looked to be on their way out when they trailed by eight points with nine minutes left on the clock but a second try of the match from Matt Healy and an intercept from Jack Carty snatched a dramatic 33-27 win.

Carty’s score crowned a great week for the Athlone man after he was named in the Ireland squad for the Six Nations, one of three uncapped Connacht players called up Joe Schmidt alongside scrum-half Caolin Blade and centre Tom Farrell.

Friend said they were pleased to advance to a quarter-final showdown against pool opponents Sale Sharks despite a performance that was far from perfect.

“We are yet to play our best game of rugby and our errors are keeping the opposition in games but we showed a lot of character and belief again and managed to get the win and the bonus,” he said.

“To win in France is a great achievement, we have done it and we have a quarter-final to look forward to now against Sale.

“We know what’s coming there but between now and then we have some huge Pro14 games to concentrate on, starting next weekend in Cardiff.

“We certainly made it hard on ourselves. But I felt we would always do it, we had the composure and thankfully it came good when it mattered most.”

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John Fallon

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