Friend relieved as Connacht book Challenge Cup quarter-final spot

Friend relieved as Connacht book Challenge Cup quarter-final spot
Connacht head coach Andy Friend prior to the Heineken Challenge Cup Pool 3 Round 6 match between Bordeaux Begles and Connacht in Bordeaux yesterday. Photo: Manuel Blondeau/Sportsfile

Connacht coach Andy Friend said he always believed his men could secure the victory they needed in Bordeaux to advance to the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup for the tenth time.

Connacht looked to be on their way out when they trailed by eight points nine minutes from the end but a second try of the match from Matt Healy and an intercept from Jack Carty snatched a dramatic 33-27 win.

Carty’s score crowned a great week for the Athlone man after he was called into the Irish squad in mid-week along, one of three uncapped Connacht players called up with scrum-half Caolin Blade and centre Tom Farrell also being drafted by Joe Schmidt.

Friend said they were pleased to advance to a quarter-final showdown against pool opponents Sale Sharks despite a performance that was far from perfect.

“We are yet to play our best game of rugby and our errors are keeping the opposition in games but we showed a lot of character and belief again and managed to get the win and the bonus.

“To win in France is a great achievement, we have done it and we have a quarter-final to look forward to now against Sale.

We know what’s coming there but between now and then we have some huge PRO14 games to concentrate on, starting next weekend in Cardiff.

“We certainly made it hard on ourselves. But I felt we would always do it, we had the composure and thankfully it came good when it mattered most.”

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