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24th Sep 2022

Bundee Aki angrily confronts referee on-field after red card tackle

Patrick McCarry

Bundee Aki

“Where do you want me? Where do you want me to clear?”

Bundee Aki lost the run of himself at Danie Craven Stadium after he saw red for the third time in his professional rugby career.

The Connacht centre entered the fray early in the second half of a United Rugby Championship clash with Stormers, in South Africa. Eager to make an impact in his first provincial outing of the season, the Ireland star conceded a breakdown penalty that saw the home side extend their lead.

The game had gone past the hour-mark when Connacht looked to be right back in the game, after a superb Mack Hansen line break. There was a forceful Aki clear-out as Connacht then pressed forward and Tom Farrell looked to have scored after claiming a high ball and dotting down.

However, referee Gianluca Gnecchi and his Television Match Official, Matteo Liperini looked back on what had been flagged in the build-up – that Aki clear-out.

Replays then showed Aki’s shoulder connecting with the head of Seabelo Senatla, as he went in for the breakdown poach. It soon became apparent that Aki was heading for a red card. Referee Gnecchi told his TMO:

“Direct contact to the head and high degree of danger.”

Bundee Aki of Connacht is shown a red card by referee Gianluca Gnecchi during the United Rugby Championship match between DHL Stormers and Connacht, at Stellenbosch in South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Sportsfile)

Bundee Aki argues with referee

Gnecchi called over Connacht captain Jarrad Butler to give him his reasons for the red card. Bundee Aki saw the red card in the ref’s hand and briefly lost the run of himself.

In an untoward scene, the centre got too close to the referee as he argued, “Where do you want me to go? Where do you want me to clear?”

The Italian match official asked Butler to direct his player off the field. The try was also chalked off and 14-man Connacht were still 19-8 down, before Stormers grabbed two more tries in quick succession.

This is the third red card for Aki, over the course of his career, along with five yellow cards he received while playing for Connacht. The two other reds came when he was representing Ireland, against Samioa at the 2019 World Cup and England in the 2021 Six Nations.

This is not the first time the 32-year-old has confronted a referee on the pitch. During a Champions Cup defeat to Leicester Tigers, earlier this year, he fired a verbal volley at referee Mathieu Raynal. He would later apologise for the incident.

Stormers, the defending champions, went on to defeat Connacht while Ulster won a high-scoring match against Scarlets.

On Friday night, Leinster put Benetton Treviso to the sword at The RDS, with Dan Sheehan bagging four tries.

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