Connacht Rugby head coach Andy Friend has praised Adam Byrne after the wing’s try helped the Irish province secure victory over Newcastle Falcons in the opening round of the EPCR Challenge Cup on Saturday.

Newcastle looked set to take an 8-7 lead into the break at The Sportsground before Byrne, making his first start for Connacht, produced a superb finish to put the hosts in front.

Friend pointed out that the former Leinster Rugby man also put in a solid defensive shift to help his side clinch a 22-8 win.

“I thought he did really well tonight,” Friend told Connacht’s website. “He was great under the high ball and had good defensive reads”

“The try came out of nothing, he was dancing around and then pops out of a gap and scores a brilliant try. I’m really pleased for him tonight with his display.”

Friend went on to praise his team for kicking their Pool A campaign off with a win after a bruising encounter, with the Australian particularly impressed with their second-half display.

“We’re happy with the win,” he commented. “It was a pretty physical affair which is always the case against Premiership sides. 14-8 at half-time and held them scoreless in the second half which was good.

“It was pleasing to see how we played in the second half as we talked during the break about using being us as we didn’t really deliver in that first half.

“Our line speed could have been better and defensively we could have been better but in the second half we were better at that. I thought across the course of the game our set piece once again did well.

Friend also noted strong performances from a contingent of Connacht academy graduates, singling out several for high praise.

“A lot of the home grown were on show tonight,” he highlighted. “I thought Niall Murray was a beauty tonight”

“Caolin [Blade] got player of the match which was deserved as he was outstanding. When Colm Reilly came on for Bladey he played well with a couple of nice line breaks”

“Oisin [McCormack] came on, got a really good steal and didn’t let the occasion get to him as he played. It’s great to see all these lads come through.”