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Friend rues 'brainless moments' as Connacht get blown away by Leinster

Bundee Aki and Jack Aungier were both shown yellow cards in the Champions Cup clash.

Luke Pearce shows Bundee Aki a yellow card.
Luke Pearce shows Bundee Aki a yellow card.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT BOSS ANDY Friend rued some “brainless moments” from his team as they were hammered by Leinster in the second leg of their Champions Cup Round of 16 clash in Dublin.

The westerners had a torrid outing in the sun at the Aviva Stadium as Leinster proved dominant in their eight-try, 56-20 win.

Connacht’s cause was not helped by yellow cards for centre Bundee Aki and replacement prop Jack Aungier, the latter of them resulting in the away team being reduced to 13 players temporarily due to the laws around uncontested scrums.

Aki was binned for a dangerous late tackle on Johnny Sexton which could have resulted in a red card, while Aungier saw yellow for a clearout in which his shoulder made contact with Josh van der Flier’s head.

“I think one was a sloppy technique, one was just a sloppy entry and it was just brainless, to be honest with you, so those things kill you,” said Connacht boss Friend of those incidents.

“Yeah, they’re always work-ons, we talk about penalties and making sure blokes are more accurate, but why do blokes give away penalties and sometimes it’s the pressure of the moment and the inability to think clearly under so much pressure.

“And when a team like Leinster applies that kind of pressure on you, sometimes you get those brainless moments. But we need to fix it.”

Leinster could also have had a yellow card for Hugo Keenan taking out Tiernan O’Halloran in the air early on, but Friend was not interested in bemoaning that decision by referee Luke Pearce.

Instead, he was honest in admitting that Connacht simply weren’t good enough against a superb Leinster team.

jack-aungier-receives-a-yellow-card-from-luke-pearce Jack Aungier was also yellow-carded. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“They definitely were dominant,” said Friend.

“I thought we had an opening exchange there that was in the process of giving us confidence, then pretty much the first time though they touched the footy they ran 75 metres and scored and all of a sudden all of that dominance we exerted was just released and they seemed to just go from strength to strength from there.

“But the message is pretty simple – the game of footy is about point of attack and strength of tackle, winning your physical battles, and if you don’t do that, you won’t win the game of football.”

Connacht captain Jack Carty was similarly dejected after this heavy defeat, with Leinster advancing into the quarter-finals on an 82-41 aggregate scoreline.

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“I think the main thing for us, we have a performance like last week when we were there, winning collisions, and I think today you can see the contrast that kind of typifies where we’re at,” said Carty.

“We’ve the highs of a good performance last week but we were disappointed with the result and then we come with confidence into this week and we don’t really fire a shot, that was the disappointing thing.

“I think over the next three games that’s something that we need to… well, it’s something we’ve been looking at all year and we don’t seem to put our finger on it.

“I thought we had it last week and we went a step forward but today we went two steps back.”

Carty did hint at his frustration with the lack of yellow card for Keenan after that early challenge on O’Halloran while the Connacht fullback was in the air.

“Look, I had a good conversation with Luke and he said that… I just made sure that if something similar happened the other side of the ball that it would be reffed the exact same,” said Carty.

“Look it didn’t materialise, there wasn’t a high ball tackle after that and look, it could have gone either way. I don’t think there are any excuses on our behalf in terms of the result but I’d probably rather not get into it.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Aviva Stadium

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