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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019

Friend: 'I couldn't be prouder of the Connacht clan'

The Connacht head coach watched his side record their sixth win in seven outings against Ulster last night.

Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux and Sean O'Brien after last night's win.
Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux and Sean O'Brien after last night's win.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

ANDY FRIEND HAS expressed his pride in the support Connacht received from a capacity Sportsground crowd last night, as the province ended the year on a high by recording their sixth win in seven outings. 

Connacht produced the perfect response from last week’s agonising inter-pro defeat to Leinster at the RDS by powering past Ulster 21-12 in Galway on Friday, as they leapfrogged Munster into second in Conference A of the Guinness Pro14.

While the hosts were unable to find a fourth try to clinch all five match points on offer, Friend was left more than satisfied with his side’s performance as they completed a first-ever seasonal double over their northern neighbours.

First-half tries from Shane Delahunt and Bundee Aki set Connacht on their way, before Caolin Blade added a third score shortly after the break to give the strong home crowd of over 8,000 a late Christmas present.

“It wasn’t the prettiest but there was a lot of good stuff in there too,” Friend told RTÉ Sport afterwards. 

“In order to win inter-pros and championships you need a forward pack that’s working, and ours is currently working really well.

“There’s a lot of belief in the group. We were bitterly disappointed with last week’s result but we knew the areas we needed to fix. This was about saying,’listen let’s park the bits we didn’t get right, let’s look at the things we did do right, we’re still a very good football team, so let’s go out there and play’.”

“It is a tight conference. Every point matters.”

With confidence high out west, Connacht will look to begin 2019 as they ended this year when they welcome Munster to the Sportsground next weekend. 

“We get an extra day this week,” Friend added, looking ahead to the final inter-pro of the festive period.

Caolin Blade celebrates scoring a try with Kyle Godwin and Jack Carty Connacht celebrate Blade's try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’d a six-day turnaround after Leinster; this one’s an eight-day turnaround. We’ll be well rested for that. We know it’s going to be another big occasion and a massive challenge for us.

“I enjoyed the fact we were able to give the squad a couple of days to go home and enjoy their own families, which is always important. They responded with a good win. I think the message there is that you don’t always have to keep flogging the horse.

“If you give them a bit of leeway and trust them to go and spend some time with their family and friends they’ll turn up and deliver for you. The boys did that.”

The feel-good factor around Galway shows no sign of relenting as Connacht ahead into another crunch block of fixtures, including the final two rounds of Challenge Cup pool action, on a roll. 

“Our support is unbelievable. We see them wherever we travel. Wherever we go they turn up,” the Australian added.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the Connacht clan and the green army we’ve got there. What’s nice is to be able to give them that Christmas present of a win.”

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Andy Dunne look back on a memorable year for Irish rugby.

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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