Connacht head coach Andy Friend paid tribute to the spirit and culture within his squad as they bounced back from a five-game losing streak with an emphatic victory over Cardiff Blues on Saturday evening. 

The westerners hadn't won a match in any competition since their memorable comeback win at home to Gloucester in the Champions Cup on 14 December. 

Since then, they've been eliminated from Europe, suffering an ultimately comprehensive defeat to French aristocrats Toulouse in the decisive match and then being edged out away to Montpellier in their final pool game. 

This arrived after a torrid Christmas run of inter-provincial encounters, in which they were pipped by Munster and then badly beaten in both Kingspan Stadium and the RDS.  

However, Friend insisted that this run didn't weaken the squad's morale and they entered in this sequence of Pro 14 fixtures in buoyant mood. 

They responded with a complete shut-out of Cardiff Blues, Dave Heffernan, Peter Robb, John Porch and Kyle Godwin scoring tries en route to an impressive bonus point win. 

"I think that's the first time since I've been here that we've held a team to 'nil' so our defence coach Pete Wilkins is very happy," Friend told RTÉ Sport's Darren Frehill after the game. 

"To get his block off to that sort of start is great. 

"It wasn't pretty but there was just a lot of intent. We put Cardiff under pressure and they coughed up ball. We turned over a lot of their ball. 

Dave Heffernan touches down for the opening try

"We actually made a comment before the game that if you've landed from an outer space planet in Connacht, you wouldn't have guessed we were on a five-game losing streak. The energy and the buzz and the belief has been fantastic. 

"That's a real compliment to the culture we're building and the group of players and staff we've got. What's happened has happened. We can't change it but it's not about wallowing in the past, it's about looking forward.

"That's what we saw tonight. This is the start of the second half of the scompetition and we wanted a performance and we got that. It was great to be able to sing 'The Fields of Athenry' in the changing room."

Connacht sit fourth in Conference B, two points adrift of Scarlets. Next week, they travel to Murrayfield to take on Edinburgh, currently lying top of Conference B with a trip to South Africa arriving on the horizon on the 1st of March. 

Friend regards this three-game block of fixture as critical to their season. 

"It's a really crucial three-game block. We said as a group that this'll define our season. If we can get three out of three - which is our target -  we're very much on track for where we want to get to, which is a home quarter-final.

"We've started the way we wanted to start and it's about making sure we take that into next week and hopefully it's another four or five points."

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