Connacht head coach Andy Friend believes his side have a massive opportunity to beat Bristol next weekend after they claimed an impressive losing bonus point in a 26-22 defeat at the hands of Racing 92 in Paris. Tries from Matt Healy, Alex Wootton and Conor Oliver along with seven points from the boots of Jack Carty and Tom Daly saw Connacht suffer a narrow loss in their Heineken Champions Cup opener.
Last season’s beaten finalists Racing scored four tries to claim maximum points with Georges-Henri Colombe, Kurtley Beale, Sebastien Taofifenua and Dominic Bird all touching down. Teddy Iribaren and Maxime Machenaud kicked six points between them.
Connacht host Bristol, who suffered a 51-38 home defeat at the hands of Clermont Auvergne on Saturday, next weekend and Friend is already looking forward to that match.
“It’s a massive opportunity for us next week to beat Bristol at the Sportsground,” said Friend.
“I’m not too phased with what other teams are doing. All we can control is what we do against Bristol.
“We’ll dissect this game, pick out the good bits and the things we didn’t do too well.
“We are a good team and are building ongoing belief and understanding of how we want to play and what we can do to opposition.
“We got some learnings there today, but we also did some pretty good things out there today. It’s frustrating we didn’t win it, but we picked up a losing bonus point and we’ve got Bristol to look forward to next Sunday.”
Racing crossed for three tries in the opening half with Colombes powering his way over from short range before Virimi Vakatawa burst clear to put Australian great Beale over.
A sensational acrobatic finish from Taofifenua extended Racing’s lead but Healy touched down after a well-timed cross-kick from Carty to cut the home side’s advantage to 19-8 at the interval.
Donovan Taofifénua with an okayish finish on his Heineken Champions Cup debut
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 13, 2020
Former All Black Bird claimed Racing’s bonus point try before an impressive late rally from Connacht saw Wootton and Oliver cross to earn a losing bonus point.
Despite slipping to defeat Friend insists the character his side showed to leave Paris with a point will stand them in good stead.
“I thought the fight was incredible,” said Friend. “We said it at half-time that we thought we’d be brave out there. We said we needed a bit more in the second half and that’s what we got.
“It was frustrating that we couldn’t nail it at the end there but it’s very hard to be disappointed with the performance. Let’s call it as it was their set-piece and their maul was very dominant.
“I thought our fellas kept fronting up which was great, and the scoreboard kept edging us closer and closer but in the end, it wasn’t enough for us.”
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