Connacht head coach Andy Friend described Munster as "the best team we have played this year" following their narrow defeat in the Sportsground on Saturday night.

Friend’s side took Munster all the way in a gripping game that finished 31-24 and went down to the final play.

He took little consolation in being involved in some thrilling games over the Christmas period but was in a gracious mood when speaking to RTÉ Sport in Galway last night.

Friend said: "When you look at the history books, it'll tell you we only won one of them and lost two of them. 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."

As Friend said, the positive for Connacht was their attacking threat which made it a difficult night for the side now top of Conference A.

The head coach of the westerners confirmed it is an area they have prioritised this campaign.  

"We've been working hard this year on our attack and asking questions," he said. "Tonight we managed to poke our nose through their line bit. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of that. It was a really good game of football.

"We talked about it at half-time, to make sure we get plenty of quick ball. When we had that we certainly made them struggle in defence. We probably just opened ourselves up a little bit too easily for that period in the second half where we gave up a couple of easy tries and then we were chasing the game.

"Credit to Munster, they were clever in the way they held us out. We didn't get that last score unfortunately."