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'He just needs to lower the body height': Connacht coach Friend takes red card calls on the chin

‘We’ve got to be much smarter than that,’ said the frustrated Connacht coach.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend admitted serious frustration at his side’s loss to Munster today, but wouldn’t bring himself to criticise referee Frank Murphy.

Murphy dished out five cards in the first-half of today’s match at the Aviva Stadium, two of them reds that left Connacht to play the majority of the 49-12 defeat with just 13 players.

Even before new signing Abraham Papali’i and Shane Delahunt were given marching orders, the western province were already on the back foot as a raft of early breakdown penalties helped tee up Munster to take a 14-0 lead.

“We just said in the shed there, you can’t try and play an opposition and a referee,” Friend said post-match, “I thought we invited the referee to make decisions.

“We’ve got to be much smarter than that, much better.

“We showed character when the game’s dead, we want to show rugby smarts and use our ability and skill. Put that on show rather than just character.

 We invited the wrath of the referee again. Early on just set the tone for it.”

Friend made it clear that his frustration lay with the team’s collective indiscipline as much as the man charged with punishing them for it. At first glance, the impacts from Papali’i on Conor Murray and Delahunt on CJ Stander were hard to fault. But Friend admits that he feared the cards as soon as he got a glimpse of the replay.

“When you flirt with the head you’re going to invite the decision. they obviously saw it that both warranted red cards, so we have to live with that.”

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“Really frustrating, because that’s not us. But it’s two weeks in a row we’ve been on the wrong side of the (penalty count) ledger.”

Red card aside, the opening 27 minutes showcased Papali’i as a very exciting addition to Connacht’s arsenal.

The 27-year-old Aucklander was at the heart of the good moments Connacht did generate, from robust and direct carries to tenacious defensive strips mid-tackle. Any player can be guilty of a high shot, but it’s hard to ignore Papali’i's Rugby League background when his tackle moves so high up the body of an opponent.

“He just needs to lower that body height,” Friend says of the new signing.

“Abe’s only been with us for three weeks. One of the things you see straight away is that he’s very coachable and he’s a very knowledgeable rugby player.

“I’ve no doubt he’ll fix that. Once he fixes that then you can use the assets he’s got, which is a big bulky carrier that can dent opposition. He’s going to be a huge asset for us.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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