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'He's got genuine belief, Bundee. That's something other players feed off'

Connacht boss Andy Friend was pleased with how his side sorted out their discipline against Glasgow.

WHATEVER ABOUT THE value of Ref Mic, Bundee Aki’s last few appearances for Connacht have underlined that we very much need Bundee Mic on the TV broadcasts of the western province’s games.

As he delivered an outstanding two-try performance in Connacht’s absorbing 28-24 win over Glasgow in Galway, Aki was at his incessantly communicative best.

Whatever about giving energy to his team-mates, Aki’s chat gave energy to everyone else watching on from the sidelines at the Sportsground, where there were 200 people in attendance.

bundee-aki-comes-up-against-nick-grigg Bundee Aki was in superb form for Connacht against Glasgow. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

One first-half highlight saw Aki briefly clash with Glasgow back row Ryan Wilson and then slowly back away, staring at Wilson with a big smile on his face as he roared, ”Mr. Ryan Wilson is at the party! He is finally at the party! Mr. Ryan Wilson!”

There was a whopping scream to celebrate each and every strong Connacht tackle, as well as non-stop cajoling, encouraging, and constructively criticising as central parts of Aki’s riveting commentary.

As importantly, Aki scored two tries for Connacht, the first after taking an offload from his impressive centre partner, Tom Farrell, and the second after he showed his pace to regather Alex Wootton’s clever grubber kick on the end of a stunning transition attack.

Aki was powerful in the tackle throughout and repeatedly carried hard as he underlined that he is in brilliant physical condition early on this season. 

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell knows all about Aki’s qualities, of course, but the 30-year-old’s outstanding start to this campaign will certainly have impressed him.

Connacht will have to get used to life without Aki again this autumn but he remains a vital player and a vital presence for the province whenever available.

“Bundee’s energy out there was brilliant and he got himself across the line a couple of times,” said Connacht boss Andy Friend after his side’s win over Glasgow.

“He’s got genuine belief, Bundee. You could put Bundee in any environment against anybody and he genuinely believes he’s going to win the contest. That’s really powerful, that’s something that other players feed off.

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“That’s one of his greatest attributes and the other one is that he’s very, very physical, he’s very, very strong. He loves those one-to-one contests and that’s something that stands out more than other footballers.”

fans-celebrate Connacht had 200 people in attendance at the Sportsground. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While everyone else off the pitch was being entertained by Aki’s commentary, Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion said it wasn’t too different on it.

“It’s pretty entertaining for us as well,” said Marmion. “He certainly gives energy to everyone and lads feed off it. We want everyone to be like that, bringing that energy.”

Aki was replaced by Sammy Arnold with a few minutes left in Galway and was applying ice to his leg but Friend confirmed that “he looks pretty ok.” 

Farrell will naturally be eager to get an update tomorrow, but he will have been impressed by several other Connacht players in the second half of this win over the Warriors.

Halfbacks Marmion and Jack Carty showed control as Connacht overturned a 7-3 half-time deficit, Dave Heffernan was good at hooker, and there were others who put their hands up as Friends side sorted out their issues from the opening 40 minutes.

“I thought our nine and 10 controlled the game really, really well in the second half and we started to play a bit more rugby,” said the Connacht boss.

“We work a lot on transition in training and a couple of those tries came from really good transitions so we’re happy with that.

“But the biggest discussion at half time was that we were beating ourselves and we had to control our discipline. We conceded nine penalties in the first half and one penalty in the second half. There’s the difference between the first and second half because our pressure does hurt teams.

“It’s a great lesson for us early on in the season to have that reinforced.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Sportsground

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