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Shane Hannon
Shane Hannon

17.52 17 Nov 2019


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Connacht head coach Andy Friend was pleased with his side's resilience after they beat Montpellier 23-20 in their Heineken Champions Cup opener at the Sportsground this afternoon.

That makes it four wins out of four for the Irish provinces in the opening weekend, with Friend's side scoring tries via Paul Boyle, Tom McCartney and Caolin Blade.

22-year-old out-half Conor Fitzgerald came off the bench to score the winning penalty.

Connacht were forced into three changes in the hour before kick-off, with captain Jarrad Butler and backs Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolukun joining their injury list.

Friend told Galway Bay FM after the match that he was pleased with his side's efforts, given their tough run with injuries.

"Just before kick-off we went in and said there's another change, the captain's out...and you know what fellas, maybe it's an Aussie thing I don't know, but I reckon you get those challenges and I quite like them.

"You think, well everything's stacked against us now but let's go out and show what we've got, and we did. I'm really, really proud of the effort out there, especially after ninety seconds and you're down 7-0 and you're thinking 'this is interesting.'

"But we fought our way through it and managed to hold on in the end."

Friend also said he was very keen to get their European campaign up and running with a win, especially in Galway.

"I heard an interesting comment made, I watched all the games at the weekend. A commentator said if you lose your first game and it's at home, no-one has ever gotten to the quarter-finals.

"So I was very aware of that - we haven't lost our first game at home which is good, and we'll see what next week and the remainder of the competition brings."

There were a number of areas in which Connacht could improve according to Friend, as they prepare to face a trip to Toulouse next weekend.

"I thought we didn't adjust - anytime they got a breakdown in the fifteen-metre channel you could see them flooding that, and I didn't think we carried as hard as we needed to into some of those.

"I thought we weren't quick enough to adjust to that, so that was frustrating. The other frustrating thing - I thought we left opportunities out there in that first-half. As good as they started, we created opportunities and we just didn't take them.

"We talked at half-time about tempo...but that doesn't mean be loose and we didn't have composure when we needed it. At the death, in the last five minutes of the first-half, we got two scores which was good for us, but I thought the second-half...was much better.

"I thought it was very, very physical as we saw, they're very physical men but...we didn't stop, and managed to get three of four turnovers from the breakdown which was great."

Elsewhere today Northampton Saints beat Lyon 25-14 in Leinster's Pool One.

And Racing 92 beat defending champions Saracens 30-10 in Paris.

Everyone’s in the Team Of Us.

Vodafone. The Official Sponsor of the Irish Rugby Team.


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