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'A scrum against 13 men and we weren’t smart' - Connacht boss Friend

The western province had a late, late chance to grab a win against Munster.

Ultan Dillane with CJ Stander after Munster's win.
Ultan Dillane with CJ Stander after Munster's win.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend expressed frustration at his side’s inability to grab a last-gasp win against Munster despite having a two-man advantage and an attacking scrum five metres out in the final passage of the game.

The western province trailed 16-3 until the closing minutes of the Guinness Pro14 encounter but a yellow card for Munster replacement back Rory Scannell allowed them to reduce the deficit through wing Peter Sullivan’s try, converted superbly by Jack Carty.

Ultan Dillane nearly crossed a minute later and Munster sub scrum-half Nick McCarthy was then sin-binned, leaving Johann van Graan’s men defending with just 13 players from the scrum with the clock in the red. 

But Connacht opted to carry down the blindside off the base of the set-piece and Munster were able to deliver a final turnover to cling on for their 16-10 victory, one that should prove crucial in Conference B of the Guinness Pro14. 

Friend felt his side should have won it at the death.

“We should have,” said the Connacht head coach. “We had a five-man scrum, 15 men against 13 men at the end of 82 minutes of football and what we did is probably the one thing you didn’t want to do.

“That’s very frustrating, to have worked that hard and to have had that fight right up until the death. You should take that chance but we didn’t.

“A scrum against 13 men and we weren’t smart.”

Friend was also frustrated that Connacht only sprung into life and delivered on their pre-match game plan in the final quarter of the contest.

“It’s 80 minutes, you’ve got to play the whole 80 minutes,” said Friend when asked if a Connacht win would have been deserved.

“I would have said with about 20 minutes to go, 16-3, that if we got a [losing bonus] point we would have been doing well. But from then onwards, it looked like we started to actually believe we could win the game and started to trust all the things that we said we wanted to do.

“We didn’t do it for the previous 60 minutes, which was frustrating. We’ve got to be better than that. We weren’t clinical enough in the first half, we had guys coming off the page. You can’t play as individuals against Munster.”

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A first-half yellow card for Shane Delahunt proved very costly for Connacht as they conceded 10 points while the hooker was in the sin bin.

Friend was unconvinced by referee Frank Murphy’s decision in that instance.

“I’ve never seen a yellow card 25 metres out, cynical, off something like that. But there’s a first for everything, isn’t there?”

Connacht were also frustrated with how long it took for Munster to receive a yellow card, with Rory Scannell binned in the 77th minute and Nick McCarthy following two minutes later.

In the end, Connacht must reflect on two defeats in the three recent inter-pro games, with their excellent win away to Leinster coming in between home defeats to Ulster and Munster.

“It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said Friend of Connacht’s inter-pro series.

“The good was against Leinster at the RDS, that’s the best performance I’ve probably seen from a Connacht side since I’ve been here. The ugly was tonight, it was scrappy and unpleasant.

“The bad… actually I don’t want to say bad because that takes away from what I thought was an energetic and hard-working Ulster side, but our second half was bad that day.

“It has been a mixed bag and this is another home loss for us, which frustrated me the most. This is supposed to be our fortress but we’re winning more games away than we are at home at the moment.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Sportsground

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