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Andy Friend's verdict on contentious Jamison Gibson-Park call

By PA
Jamison Gibson-Park is yellow carded /PA

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Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park’s avoidance of a red card was the major talking point after his side’s 26-21 Heineken Champions Cup round-of-16 first-leg win over Connacht at the Sportsground.

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The home crowd made their views known when an upright Gibson-Park made contact with Kieran Marmion’s face, leaving him with a bloody nose from a 56th-minute tackle.

After a lengthy TMO review, the Leinster replacement was sin-binned by referee Karl Dickson, while Connacht head coach Andy Friend felt the match officials got the colour of the card right.

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“I thought it was a yellow,” he said afterwards. “I think there’s so much conjecture around these things at the moment.

“To me, there was one angle that made it look not good. There were two other angles where you thought there was not much more he can do.

“Now, he definitely hit shoulder on face but I reckon we’ve got to be careful there’s a game. I didn’t think there was any intent.

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“There was a second defender in there so you can understand a player, Kieran, falling. I was OK with it, to be honest. I thought the right decision was made.”

The westerners leaked two quick-fire first-half tries to James Lowe and a Hugo Keenan effort had Leinster leading 23-14. However, Leva Fifita crossed during Gibson-Park’s sin-binning and the visitors needed a late Ross Byrne penalty to secure the victory.

Friend, who watched John Porch light up the game with a second-minute try, added: “We are five points behind now but we can take a lot out of that performance.

“There were some really good bits in it and hopefully we can go to the Aviva and be better again.”

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Meanwhile, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen believes his side are five points up at half-time as they look to kill off Connacht’s challenge in next Friday’s second leg at the Aviva Stadium.

“Connacht stretched us right from the first passage of play, obviously got in for a try,” he said. “Our guys battled their way back into the game and it was different bits of control in the second half.

“We had some opportunities that we didn’t quite take towards the end, which would have given us a slightly bigger lead.

“We knew it was going to be a very, very tough challenge down here. That’s exactly what we got from Connacht.”

With a dose of home comforts to come for the four-time champions, he added: “What’s made this competition over a long period of time is the crowds and the occasions.

“We’re back in the Aviva and the players really enjoy playing at the Aviva. We’ll have that energy and connection with the crowd, that’s so important for us.”

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