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'We're in the hunt but we need to get better at the things that let us down today'

Stuart Hogg’s late drop-goal was a sickening blow for Connacht, but Andy Friend was encouraged by what he saw from his team.

Ryan Bailey reports from the Sportsground 

AN AGONISING ONE-POINT defeat that ought to have been an opening-day victory is a real kick in the teeth for Connacht, but there was enough in the performance to convince Andy Friend that his side will be ‘in the hunt’ this year.

Craig Ronaldson watches his late penalty Craig Ronaldson reacts to missing his late penalty. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Stuart Hogg’s late drop-goal completed Glasgow’s comeback in Galway, as Connacht — having led by nine points with 22 minutes remaining — were left to rue their game management and inability to close the contest out.

Craig Ronaldson had two chances to snatch victory back for the western province, but a drop-goal attempt of his own was poorly-executed and a last-gasp penalty from close to halfway brushed the outside of the post.

It sucked the life out of the Sportsground after the Clan Terrace had been encouraged by their side’s showing to that point, with Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell and Paul Boyle among the standout performers in green.

Connacht had done so much good work around the park for large periods to seize the scoreboard advantage, courtesy of first-half scores from Kelleher and Finlay Bealham, as well as 16 points from the boot of Jack Carty.

But at the other end they looked vulnerable from the outset, with Glasgow cutting them apart inside the opening minute for Tommy Seymour to go over while Connacht’s failure to control restarts also proved incredibly costly.

Overall, Friend was encouraged by his side’s performance but recognises the need to improve in several facets, including aggression in defence and not leaking cheap points having just scored themselves.

“We had our chances to finish that off and we didn’t, that’s disappointing,” he said afterwards.

“Glasgow are a good side and that’s what good sides do. They manage to win the tight ones. There was a lot of good things from our team, but we need to be better.

“It is disappointing, we spoke about in the shed there. We’ll all be disappointed with that result. We don’t go out out to lose.

“What we have to look at are the areas we did well in and make sure we keep that, cement that in our game and then there are simple areas we can fix like out ability to get off the ground quicker in defence and get bodies in front of the opposition.

“For me, there’s no skill required in fixing those things, they’re easy ones to fix. I know we’re going to fix them, but we need to do it quickly.”

Cian Kelleher and Nick Grigg Cian Kelleher impressed on the Connacht wing. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Australian continued: “We scored and we couldn’t get out of our 22. That’s certainly an area we need to look at, we can’t be leaking points after us scoring. We’ve got to make sure we get territorial advantage.

“Our attack shape gives us great opportunity and momentum going forward but what we’ve got to be better at is converting that into points.

“It was a quality game which was anybody’s until that last kick, but it didn’t go our way today.”

With Zebre visiting the Sportsground next Saturday, Friend says Connacht must back up this performance with a result against the Italians, before a trip to Edinburgh and home games against Scarlets and Leinster. 

“We’re in the hunt, that’s my key takeaway,” he added. “We have just got to be better at some of the smaller things that we let ourselves down on today and we’ll make it very difficult for teams to win.”

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Ryan Bailey

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