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Aki bags a try in Connacht win after signing new deal

Ireland centre Bundee Aki (Getty)

Bundee Aki celebrated his three-year IRFU contract extension with the opening try in Connacht’s 24-12 Guinness PRO14 win over the Isuzu Southern Kings at the Sportsground.

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It was three tries-to-two at the end of a fast-paced first half, with Connacht leading 19-12 thanks to efforts from Aki, Finlay Bealham and Australian sevens international John Porch. Erich Cronje and Scott Van Breda struck back for the visitors.

Replacement Ruaan Lerm produced an all-action display as the Kings looked to add to their recent historic victory away to the Ospreys. But Connacht sewed up the result when winger Porch dived over to complete his brace in the 42nd minute.

In their final match of the calendar year, the Kings were unable to turn their early pressure into points and Aki, whose new deal was announced on Friday, swooped for the opening 12th-minute score. He joined a lineout maul near the left corner and found a gap to crash over, with man-of-the-match Conor Fitzgerald converting.

Stefan Ungerer’s flat pass sent centre Cronje crashing over for a 17th-minute leveller, which needed confirmation from TMO Wayne Davies. The Kings almost handed those points back from a kick blocked by Porch, but Kyle Godwin’s pass to Matt Healy did not go to hand.

(Continue reading below…)

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But Connacht took charge with two tries in three minutes near the half-hour mark. Prop Bealham plunged over from another well-executed maul before Fitzgerald converted Porch’s first try for the Irish province, which was set up by a brilliant break from halfway involving Fitzgerald, Colby Fainga’a and Aki.

Trailing 19-7, the South Africans snapped back with a try just before the break. Invited forward courtesy of a clutch of penalties, excellent hands from Ungerer and Aston Fortuin allowed full-back Van Breda to canter over from close range but he missed the conversion this time.

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The Connacht backs clicked for an almost immediate try on the resumption. Quick ball from a lineout on the right was transferred across to the opposite wing and Porch did really well to hold onto Healy’s high pass and dart over from the edge of the visitors’ 22, opening up a double-scores lead.

The final half an hour was scrappy with a lot of back-and-forth exchanges. The Kings were unable to capitalise on a Theo Maree break from deep, while Connacht, who have jumped back to second place in Conference B, will be keen to cut down on the errors heading into their Champions Cup doubleheader with Gloucester.

– Press Association 

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Jon 4 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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