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Friend hits out at Ulster's captain's challenge | 'Leave it alone, that’s a footy collision'

Connacht head coach Andy Friend hit out at Ulster after they used their captain's challenge for a...

Connacht head coach Andy Friend hit out at Ulster after they used their captain's challenge for a 'really good tackle' by Abraham Papali'i in the opening round of the Pro14 Rainbow Cup.

On the opening day of the new competition, the trial law of the captain's challenge was the focal point of a dramatic Ulster-Connacht inter-pro, which saw Friend's side earn a 26-24 victory.

Both sides made use of the trial law, as Connacht successfully challenged a call in the final minutes of the match which saw them awarded a try to secure the victory.

However, it was Ulster's use of their captain's challenge that caught the attention of Friend, who believed that they deliberately attempted to get 6'3", 125kg flanker Abraham Papali'i carded.

The New Zealander has had his issues with discipline since arriving at the Sportsground, being shown both a yellow and a red card for dangerous tackles in his first four matches for the province.

However, speaking to media after his side's victory, Friend believes that Papali'i's tackle on Matthew Rea, which was challenged by Ulster, was a fair tackle and the correct decision was made in the match.

“It was a really good tackle. He lined him up and he hit him fair and square," Friend said.

“Sometimes when you get hit by a truck you want to ask ‘what just happened’ but I got really cranky with that call.

“That man has been working so hard on his tackle technique and what he doesn’t need is a really clean tackle then being put under the microscope.

“I was frustrated by that one because they had just scored a try, leave it alone, that’s a footy collision and it was a good collision and they wasted their captain’s challenge on it.”

Papali'i Connacht Abraham Papali'i of Connacht reacts after his side conceded a third try during the Guinness PRO14 match between Connacht and Scarlets at Sportsground in Galway. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

While Friend could not say whether Papali'i was deliberately targeted for the challenge, he was frustrated that a 'perfectly clean tackle' was analysed, particularly because of the work that the Kiwi has put into his tackle technique after transitioning from rugby league.

“In talking quickly with Dan (McFarland) he said the bloke who got hit thought he had got hit high but it wasn’t and that’s what happens when you get hit by a good rugby shot,” Friend said.

“I thought Abraham was fantastic and I thought we used our captain’s call really, really wisely and I’m pleased we had it there at the tail-end.

“Abraham has put a lot of work into his tackle technique and other elements of his game. We knew when we brought him over here as a project and in fairness to Abe he has worked really, really hard after not the best start.

"He’s a very exciting player and I couldn’t have been more proud of him.”

The South African Pro14 Rainbow Cup competition gets underway on Saturday, giving Irish fans their first look at the franchises that will be joining the Pro16 next season. Read how they compare to the provinces here.

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Abraham Papali'i Andy Friend Captains Challenge Connacht Dan Mcfarland Matthew Rea Rainbow Cup Ulster