Connacht coach Andy Friend praised Munster as ‘the best team we have played this year’ after the southern province left The Sportsground with a hard-fought victory on Saturday night.

The home side pushed Johann van Graan’s men all the way, with centre Tom Farrell particularly excellent, but ultimately came up short in a 31-24 thriller.

It has been a bittersweet festive period for the westerners, with Connacht beating Ulster at home while falling to narrow defeats against both Leinster and Munster. The RDS loss to last season’s double winners stung the most, with Leinster overcoming a 17-point deficit with ten minutes left to snatch victory.

Speaking to RTÉ after last night’s game in Galway, Andy Friend said he was proud of his team’s performance, but admitted that two close losses over Christmas leaves him disappointed.

“When you look at the history books, it’ll tell you we only won one of them and lost two of them,” Friend said.

“We know the Leinster game was the one that really hurt us and I thought we were really brave in the way we bounced back against Ulster.

“Tonight it was a humdinger of a match and it could have gone either way. Fair play to Munster, I thought they were the best team we have played this year. In the end they got the win.

“I thought it was a good game of football to be honest. I thought both teams gave everything they had. Munster were very, very clincial. They played a smart game.

“When it was on to attack, they attacked. When it wasn’t they turned us. Their kicks were good. Their maul was strong.

“The other side of that is when we had quick ball we were able to open them up a bit. We scored some good tries but unfortunately we didn’t have enough tries in the bank to get the win.”

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