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Connacht's Bundee Aki sees red and confronts referee

By PA
Bundee Aki was not happy with the referee.

Bundee Aki was sent off as Connacht suffered a 38-15 defeat to defending United Rugby Championship winners the Stormers in Stellenbosch.

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Ireland international Aki was penalised for a dangerous clearout midway through the second half, extinguishing any hope of a fightback from the Irish province.

Evan Roos touched down early for the hosts and, though they could not add another try before the break, they took a 13-8 lead into half-time thanks to the kicking of Manie Libbok, with Dylan Tierney-Martin going over for the visitors.

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The Westerners were 19-8 down when Aki was given his marching orders and quickfire tries from Andre-Hugo Venter and Hacjivah Dayimani put the result beyond doubt, with Jack Aungier crossing for a late consolation.

Marcel Theunissen wrapped up the bonus point after the hooter.

Roos dominated the end-of-season awards last term and took only three minutes to make an impact this time around.

The number eight exploited a gap in the Connacht defence and made light work of Mack Hansen’s attempted tackle as his rampaging run sent him over in the corner.

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Libbok slotted the conversion and added a penalty after Conor Fitzgerald had got Connacht off the mark from the tee.

The Stormers number 10 was off-target with a relatively straightforward penalty after 22 minutes but normal service was resumed when he made it 13-3 five minutes later.

Marvin Orie was then sin-binned for an accumulation of Stormers offences and Connacht quickly made their hosts pay.

Following a period of sustained pressure on the Stormers five-metre line, Connacht eventually drove Tierney-Martin over, although Fitzgerald was wayward with the conversion.

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Libbok scored two more penalties either side of Connacht losing Caolin Blade to a serious-looking lower-leg injury early in the second half.

The visitors thought they had closed the gap when Tom Farrell went over after collecting a David Hawkshaw cross-kick but the try was chalked off for Aki’s dangerous clearout on Seabelo Senatla in the build-up – an offence that earned Aki the red card.

An angry Aki then followed referee Gianluca Gnecchi up the pitch after the red card had been brandished. The Ireland centre could be heard asking the referee ‘Where do you want me? Where do you want me to clear?’ before being ushered away by Connacht captain Jarrad Butler.

That dismissal swung momentum decisively in the Stormers’ favour and Venter touched down at the end of a mesmerising passage of play to make it 26-8 with the help of Libbok’s conversion.

Dayimani quickly added another and although Aungier’s try – converted by Hawkshaw – gave Connacht fans something to smile about, it was Theunissen who had the final say at the death, with Libbok adding the extras.

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