Disappointing not to get the win but signs are positive under new coach Friend

Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby, defence coach Andy Farrell, Andy Friend and Connacht defence coach Peter Wilkins at training this week. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sports
Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby, defence coach Andy Farrell, Andy Friend and Connacht defence coach Peter Wilkins at training this week. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sports

The general sentiment around Galway last Saturday evening was that this Connacht team are on the right track.

But losing at home to Glasgow Warriors on the first day of the season was not the best start to Andy Friend’s reign at the Sportsground.

I was looking back at last year’s fixture as well, and it was the same sort of thing in totally different conditions. In the first game of the season, Connacht lost to Glasgow, albeit it finished 18-12.

You need to win those games, first of all because it’s your home game, secondly it’s your first game of the season, and when you face off against the old rivals you would love to start the season with a big win.

Connacht did everything they possibly could have but win the game. It was a huge crowd and a lovely day. It was the perfect day for rugby and both teams went toe-to-toe.

The Connacht crowd are demanding, in that what they like is a performance, and they got a performance.

Connacht played games last year where there wasn’t a performance and they lost the games too. That would annoy the most loyal supporter.


This game was different. Connacht produced but unluckily they fell on the wrong side of the result. Nine times out of 10 if you perform well you will get the victory.

They nearly pulled it off between the attempted drop-goal, which I thought was a hasty decision, and the penalty at the end.

You have to stop thinking what John Muldoon would have done if he was playing there. But if ‘Mul’ was playing there on Saturday you would have to assume that he would have made sure Connacht took it on for a few more phases.

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There was about 45 seconds before the clock went red and Connacht could have worked an opening further up the field. But Craig Ronaldson went for it.

Connacht could have even got the scrum after that because Stuart Hogg caught the ball and he took it back over his own line. That would have made a huge difference but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Friend will look at it and he will say that was a tough game to lose. Connacht did a lot of things right.

The first two tries were very soft efforts and that will really annoy him. Any coach that prides himself on defence and organisation, the first two tries were poor ones to give away. The second was particularly poor. The Glasgow player just waltzed through because there was no pillar there to cover.

Those mistakes are unforgivable.

When Friend looks back at the end of the season it will be the little things like that that wreck his head. Or the fact that Connacht didn’t get the try bonus point themselves. That would have hurt.

These games will be crucial when you get to the business end of the season in April. Glasgow will be delighted to come out with a win like that, and only giving Connacht one bonus point in defeat too.

We will see what happens, but there were some good personal performances on the day. Jarrad Butler was outstanding, Jack Carty was playing brilliantly before he was taken off.

However, the scrum seemed to come under a bit of pressure when they changed the front-row.

But as games go, for the start of the season, I am sure the supporters walking out of the Sportsground on Saturday evening would have felt a lot different to the way they did at the start of last season.

There is something there at least. There is a pep in people’s step. It’s something to look forward to.

The guys are playing a refreshing brand of rugby. They are throwing the ball around, let’s see if they can continue to do that.

I’m sure Glasgow are looking further down the track. They are going to be shorn of most of their internationals when it comes to the Six Nations, and then for preparations for the World Cup.

I would imagine they are trying to load up as many points as they can when they have access to those guys.

From a Connacht point of view, I wouldn’t panic just yet. They have a big game to come against Zebre, a very winnable game as well, even though Zebre won at the weekend.

There are one or two more players to come back into the loop and let’s see what happens then.


There was a great buzz around Galway on Saturday and despite the manner of the defeat there were a lot of people satisfied with what they saw.

That is the important thing, that Connacht get the supporters back on board after a tough season last year.

Training sessions this week will probably just involve tightening up on basic errors. There was nothing there that will worry Friend. The two driving maul tries might be a problem. But Connacht can do the same thing up the other end.

The only problem would have been the first two tries. But I still think that the atmosphere is really good down in the Sportsground.

It’s a happy training camp and on Saturday against Zebre, hopefully they can get a win under their belts.

People would accept a defeat against Glasgow, but losing to Zebre would point things in the wrong direction. Connacht have to win tomorrow and I’m sure they will.

Irish Independent

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