Friend hails Connacht's control after big win in Edinburgh

‘I love the fact that the players, when they got into the red zone backed themselves and executed.’

Image: Craig Watson/INPHO

AFTER A DISAPPOINTING couple of seasons on the road, Connacht coach Andy Friend has told his players they need to win half their away games this campaign.

If they keep playing the way they did in Edinburgh, they are going to beat that target with something to spare.

While the home side did manage four tries through the power of their pack – three came from line out mauls and one from a drive inches from the Connacht line, the Irish side showed verve and imagination in the way they crafted theirs.

“We are happy, that is probably the best we have managed a game,” said Friend afterwards.

“We have been guilty of playing in the wrong area at times and burning too much fuel by playing in the wrong areas of the field but I thought the way Caolin Blade, Conor Fitz (who started at fly half) and Tom Daly (who moved there after he went off injured) put the ball in behind Edinburgh allowed us to save our fuel and our energy for when we needed it. Their execution was much, much better.

It was also variety with which we scored the tries, there were kicks through, there were open-field run-throughs, good variety. I love the fact that the players, when they got into the red zone backed themselves and executed. That is a good sign for us.”

Three of the tries came from clever kicks that caught the home defence flat-footed, one from a midfield break and one from quickly exploiting a line out turn-over as Connacht made the most of their attacking opportunities.

“We were also very conscious of the way we have played here previously, I don’t think we played smartly. I  think Edinburgh probably expected something similar so to be able to turn that round was pleasing,” Friend added.

While the overall execution was classy, the biggest boost was the form of Caolin Blade who got their scoring under way and was a threat every time he touched the ball. Despite that man-of-the-match performance, he reckons there is still better to come.

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“I’m training hard and working hard every day,” he said. “There are still areas of game where I need to improve. I am happy with my own performance in this game, especially the way I controlled the game which is one of my biggest work-ons. I will take the positives out of this game but also the negatives. 

“We try to play heads up and find space no matters where it is.We are trying to get the mentality that every kick we do is to win the ball back or put pressure on them, not just to relieve pressure. Especially in that first half there was a lot of space and we scored tries off it.”

With Benetton Treviso coming up next there are plenty of reasons for optimism that they can cash in on this strong start to the season despite their healthy contribution to the Ireland national side, Friend added.

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Lewis Stuart

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