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23rd Dec 2023

“It was getting edgy” – Bundee Aki and Stuart McCloskey get into it as Ulster beat Connacht

Patrick McCarry

Bundee Aki

“Nobody stops him from two yards out.”

Following Connacht’s 20-19 defeat to Ulster, seeing two players from the rival team managed to pick up the spirits of Bundee Aki.

The Connacht centre put in a fine effort, like many of his teammates, but they left themselves with too much to do, going into the second half, and John Cooney was the late hero. As both sets of players converged in the middle of the pitch, Aki lit up when he saw Tom Stewart and Will Addison.

TV cameras did not catch whether he made up with Ireland teammate, and jersey rival, Stuart McCloskey after their “handbags”moment in the first half, at Kingspan Stadium.

Aki crashed over to score after eight minutes of his side’s URC visit to Belfast, then took exception to some needless afters from McCloskey. It was a minor matter until Aki, standing up, pushed McCloskey back and traded some words.

Mike McCarthy on Bundee Aki moment

Former Ireland players Mike McCarthy and Stephen Ferris were on punditry duty on Premier Sport, for the game. McCarthy saw no issue with the mini set-to, after the Bundee Aki try.

“Bundee Aki did well there, going back against the grain. He’s got that low centre of gravity and is so powerful. Not much you can do there [to stop him].” McCarthy added:

“There’s a few handbags there between him and McCloskey. I’m not sure what they are saying to each other! Obviously the Six Nations is right around the corner – it was getting edgy. That’s what we like to see with a derby.”

“With McCloskey,” said Stephen Ferris, “there were two or three tacklers but he leant in himself and had a little nibble, even though the try had already been scored. But I think it was more laughs and jokes, in response, from Bundee Aki.

An eight defeat on the spin – in URC and Champions Cup matches – sees Connacht slip to eighth place in the league standings.

“We’ve had a couple of tough ones like that in the last month, but very proud of the effort,” Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins told reporters, after the match. “It’s fine margins, when you look at the build-up to this game, Connacht and Ulster were incredibly even in terms of what they’ve produced this season on average.”

Ulster, who defeated Racing 92 at the same venue, in Europe, last weekend climbed to fourth after besting Connacht.


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