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15th Jan 2022

Bundee Aki confronts referee as Connacht lose Tigers thriller with 45 seconds to go

Patrick McCarry

Bundee Aki


Andy Friend’s Connacht were left heartbroken after enduring a late storm from Leicester Tigers. Bundee Aki could have some apologising to do, too.

“How that wasn’t a penalty to Connacht, I don’t know!” exclaimed Brian O’Driscoll.

That was only the start of the drama as Leicester Tigers claimed a last-gasp try to stun their hosts. O’Driscoll felt Connacht should have had a penalty when Paul Boyle made a good poach attempt inside his 22. The match officials did not agree and play spread wide for Hosea Saumaki to score in the corner.

Initial replays looked like Saumaki had been dragged into touch, but closer looks showed the Tongan’s foot bounced up and was therefore not on the line when he scored. It was enough to make it 29-28 and give the English side the win.

Connacht players were disgusted with the decision, and Bundee Aki could be in trouble for confronting the referee after the full-time whistle.

The ref, Mathieu Raynal, told Aki he should look at the replays himself. In no uncertain terms, Raynal told Aki:

“If it’s not on the line, you will apologise.”

Cian Prendergast of Connacht celebrates after scoring against Leicester. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile)

Leicester get off to flying start

Tigers, the Premiership leaders, scored two tries in the opening 10 minutes, and the only thing going the way of the hosts, at The Sportsground, was Freddie Burns missing two conversions.

Burns’ misses may have been excused, somewhat, when home outhalf Jack Carty also saw the wind wisp away an early penalty attempt, but more was to come from the Westerners.

A strong rolling maul sucked in jerseys and, when Kieran Marmion opted to go wide, the ball went through the hands swiftly and Matt Healy teed up Tiernan O’Halloran to dive over. That gave home fans in Galway belief and that feeling only grew when Bundee Aki threw a great offload and, a few phases later, Can Prendergast bashed over to score.

Tiernan O’Halloran of Connacht, left, celebrates after scoring his side’s first try against Leicester Tigers at The Sportsground. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile)

Connacht start second half like a train

The hosts led 14-10 at the break, but started the second half superbly. Tigers flanker Tommy Reffell was yellow-carded as his side tried to endure an early onslaught. Marmion made them pay, through, when he took a dart and squirmed over to score.

The try-scoring bonus point arrived on 48 minutes off a set-play from an attacking Connacht scrum. Jack Carty converted and it was 28-10 with 30 minutes to play.

Leicester came into the match having won 13 of their last 14 games [they lost to Wasps in the league, last weekend], so they are made of stern stuff.

So it proved when back-row unit Jasper Wiese secured a fine turnover and, when the ball went wide, Kini Murimurivalu crashed over in the corner. Cian Prendergast made a great intervention to prevent a fourth Leicester try, but one sensed they would not be denied forever.

Sure enough, with seven minutes to go, Tigers hooker Charlie Clare got over amid a giant heave from his teammates to grab a crucial try. Burns nailed that conversion and it was a four-point game.

On came Leicester and we had that late Hosea Saumaki try, and all the drama that accompanied it.

Connacht will be steaming over the calls that went against them but, from 28-10 ahead, they really should have finished this one out.

UPDATE: Bundee Aki has since apologised for his post-game confrontation of Raynal.

Connacht fans will hope the centre will not face any actions for his over-stepping of the mark, at full-time.


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