Andy Friend frustrated by referee’s decisions in loss to Munster

Connacht head coach questioned a number of the key incidents in Thomond clash

Connacht head coach Andy Friend before the game. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Connacht head coach Andy Friend before the game. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Even in his own inimitably measured way, Connacht head coach Andy Friend could scarcely conceal his frustration after his side’s unlucky 20-18 defeat by Munster at Thomond Park.

With Connacht deservedly leading 6-0 approaching half-time, the first half turned on the decision by referee Chris Busby and TMO Brian MacNeice to harshly yellow card Sammy Arnold for a supposedly high hit.

Then, while Connacht were down to 14 men, the two officials somehow overlooked clear evidence that Tadhg Beirne was in front of Niall Scannell’s crossfield kick prior to him kicking on for Chris Cloete to score and give Munster a 7-6 interval lead.

“It hurts, it hurts to lose a game like that, I thought we were the better team, the scoreboard does not tell you that, we ask for consistency in this game, I didn’t think we got it,” said Friend.

“For Tiernan’s (O’Halloran) try, it is a knock-on, the correct decision was made then, the ball went forward, that was fair enough, it did go forward,” he added in reference to a finish by Mack Hansen which disallowed as replays showed O’Halloran’s one-handed flick had gone marginally forward.

“But there was a lot of time spent to get that decision. I thought the yellow card for Sammy Arnold was a very harsh call.

“I then thought, in fact I know, when Joey Carbery puts the crossfield kick in that you have got Tadhg Beirne offside,” said Friend with regard to Scannell’s cross-kick.

“It doesn’t get looked at. It doesn’t get pored over in the same manner. So they end up getting seven points for that.

And at the end of the day they win by two points. So I am frustrated and annoyed by that.”

Asked if he felt Connacht generally receive a raw deal from officials, Friend said: “I will let others decide. We very rarely end up on the right side. If it is a 50/50, it very rarely goes our side. It is hard.”

Meanwhile his counterpart, Johann van Graan, could scarcely hide his relief after Diarmuid Barron’s 78th minute try and Joey Carbery’s nerveless conversion secured their fourth win in four matches.

“I’m glad that it’s finished,” he freely admitted.

“It was a very physical interpro. Both sides gave it all they got, small margin in this games, that’s the beauty of Irish rugby. All four teams are always giving it everything they’ve got.

“We weren’t accurate enough in the first half specifically but good teams score when it matters and the try before half time for us was a big moment. We had a very strong wind in the second half and from a territory point of view we managed the second-half pretty well and managed to come back from the charge down and finish the game pretty well so I’m very glad about the win.”

As to whether Munster had been lucky to be awarded Cloete’s 39th minute try, van Graan said: “No, we haven’t specifically delved into that. This game is about small margins and, like every weekend, both sides have certain calls that go for and against them. We will review the game as normal on Monday and follow the protocols and see if we have any issues.”

Carbery’s match-winning conversion had come 10 minutes after his attempted clearance had been charged down by Jack Carty, his counterpart gathering and scoring before adding the conversion.

“I haven’t specifically spoken to Joey,” said van Graan. “In every game, especially as a 10, you’ve got up and down moments. The important thing for him mentally is that he stayed in the game and that is the sign of a class player is to make that conversion but it is a 23-man game and it took everyone to work hard to get us into that position.”

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