Connacht head coach Andy Friend fancied his men to turn over Sale Sharks at the Sportsground, and said he was "proud" of a physical, gritty Challenge Cup display that lifted the Westerners level on points with the Premiership side at the top of Pool 3.

David Horwitz's penalty nine minutes from time earned the hosts a 21-18 victory as Sale - fifth in the Premiership - came undone.

Connacht had to withstand a late onslaught to come away with the win, and Friend took huge heart from the manner in which they saw it out.

"It's not good for the heart!," the Australian told RTÉ Sport's Michael Corcoran.

"In the end it'll go down as a good win for us. It was a really frustrating game of rugby to be involved in. We came out the other side of it and got the win. We'll take that.

"I thought we defended well again. It's been a part of our game that we pride ourselves on, and we've been good at it. The boys didn't stop, they didn't stop whacking them.

"They're a big physical pack. We saw them against Saracens last week - they won that physical battle I thought so we knew what we were up against. 

"Our fellows didn't shirk it. They kept fronting up, kept making those tackles. I was proud of them.

"I felt when we played them last time that we were a side that could match them. I thought when they came here to the Sportsground we were going to show that. 

"Both sides have been playing some good rugby; thankfully we came out the right side."

Next up is a trip to Stade Chaban-Delmas for the last game of the pool. Connacht have one foot in the knockout stages, but Friend is taking nothing for granted.

"It's a tough game next week," he added. "Any French team, especially over there, anything can happen. There's no easy games now."