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Brilliant Bundee Aki leads Connacht to thrilling win over Glasgow in Galway

The Ireland centre scored two tries as Connacht delivered some stunning rugby in the second half.

Connacht 28

Glasgow 24

WHO KNEW A crowd of just 200 people could make this much noise? 

Connacht’s lucky few fans were treated to a spectacle at the Sportsground as Bundee Aki brilliantly led Andy Friend’s side to a rousing victory over the visiting Glasgow Warriors, the westerners overturning a 7-3 half-time deficit to win 28-24.

bundee-aki-scores-a-try-despite-stafford-mcdowall Bundee Aki crosses for Connacht. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Imposing inside centre Aki actually managed to drown out the Connacht fans at some stages with his incessant encouragement of his team-mates, while his brace of second-half tries were crucial in a victory that was in the balance right until the final whistle.

Ireland boss Andy Farrell will certainly be excited about the condition Aki is heading for the autumn Tests in. 

A frustrating first-half in Galway had left Connacht trailing but they showed all of their attacking class in the second 40, including a stunning effort from inside their own half finished by Aki. 

This was very much a continuation of the kind of stuff Connacht played against Ulster upon the restart of rugby in August and it looks like they will be thrilling to following in this new 2020/21 season.

Captain Jarrad Butler was the official man of the match as Paul Boyle also impressed in the back row, while outside centre Tom Farrell was excellent alongside Aki in the midfield, and halfback pair Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty had several important contributions. Hooker Dave Heffernan was a prominent presence too.

Connacht now move on to a visit to Cardiff Blues next weekend buoyed by their absorbing and exciting win in this Guinness Pro14 season opener. 

gavin-thornbury-and-denis-buckley Gavin Thornbury and Denis Buckley front up for Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht enjoyed a rather dominant opening 15 minutes but the pressure yielded only three points from Carty’s boot, with the out-half missed a very kickable second opportunity off the tee. 

An overthrown Connacht lineout on the 22 signalled the moment when Glasgow finally lifted the early onslaught and the visitors were soon down the other end of the pitch, where Quinn Roux was sin-binned for a needless no-arms tackle on Fraser Brown just after he had passed.

Connacht had been racking up the penalty count but Glasgow out-half Adam Hastings had a jarring miss off the tee from an even more straightforward position that Carty to let them off the hook.

The westerners continued to defend ferociously even with only 14 players and they survived Roux’s 10-minute spell on the sideline as centre pairing Aki and Farrell led the linespeed and number eight Boyle put in some big tackles.

The penalty count of 15 in a stop-start first half prevented any real flow to the game and Connacht suffered a blow with the final passage of play as Glasgow finally broke them down.

quinn-roux-is-shown-a-yellow-card-by-craig-evans Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having kicked a penalty into the left corner, Danny Wilson’s side were battering away from close-range and looked set to continue with the one-out carries only for Ali Price to pull a pass back to Hastings, who darted past a tackle attempt and shifted the ball to hard-running centre Nick Grigg to cross and finish under the posts.

With Hastings converting, Connacht trailed 7-3 at the break and they conceded first in the second half too after Hastings chipped out of his 22 for fullback Huw Jones to burst upfield and offload to Price, with the home side failing to release in the tackle as they scrambled.

Hastings made no mistake off the tee to open up a seven-point lead for the Warriors, although Connacht nearly found a swift response as Carty’s skip pass freed Wootton down the left and he chipped ahead, only for the bounce to be unkind to the chasing Peter Sullivan, who lost the ball into touch.

But the try came just two minutes later with penalty advantage playing for a late tackle on Marmion, who soon hit Farrell to break inside the tackle attempt of Hastings, surge to within five metres and then offload calmly to Aki, who battered his way over.

Carty converted for 10-10 with just under half an hour to play and they were in front before the final quarter as wing pair Wootton and Sullivan did superbly down the right-hand side, the latter offloading to Farrell, before the forwards took over and Roux surged under the posts to score. 

bundee-aki-comes-up-against-nick-grigg Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Carty converted for a 17-10 advantage but the lead lasted barely two minutes as Glasgow struck superbly again, scoring off an old Joe Schmidt classic lineout attack featuring a dummy loop before Brown passed back inside to Jones, who broke and rounded opposite number John Porch, with Hastings adding the extras from under the posts. 

Connacht edged back in front in the 65th minute as Carty slotted a penalty from straight in front of the posts after Scott Cummings was guilty of failing to roll away from a tackle quick enough. 

And straight from the restart, Connacht regained sub scrum-half Caolin Blade’s box kick and scored in stunning fashion from their own half, Farrell hitting fullback Porch for the initial break before he found Wootton out on the left and the wing cleverly grubber-kicked ahead for the hard-chasing Aki to outpace Peter Horne and regather to dive over.

Carty couldn’t convert from out wide but Connacht did have some separation on the scoreboard with their 25-17 lead, which proved vital as Glasgow again responded in try-scoring fashion within minutes, a sublime wide-wide attack finished out on the right by Tommy Seymour.

jack-carty-and-jarrad-butler-celebrate-as-quinn-roux-scores-a-try Connacht celebrate Quinn Roux's second-half score. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Hastings added the extras to leave the Warriors just behind at 25-24 and this one was heading down to the wire.

But Carty gave Connacht some breathing room with a penalty from over 40 metres out with four minutes left, the out-half showing his poise to slot the three points.

And with Aki continuing to scream directions from the sideline, having been replaced by Sammy Arnold, the Connacht men were able to seal the deal with a big defensive stand in the final stanza.


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Connacht scorers:

Tries: Bundee Aki [2], Quinn Roux

Conversions: Jack Carty [2 from 3]

Penalties: Jack Carty [3 from 4]

Glasgow scorers:

Tries: Nick Grigg, Huw Jones, Tommy Seymour

Conversions: Adam Hastings [3 from 3]

Penalties: Adam Hastings [1 from 2]

CONNACHT: John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki (Sammy Arnold ’67), Alex Wootton; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade ’59); Denis Buckley (Jordan Duggan ’71), Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham (Jack Aungier ’53); Gavin Thornburn (Niall Murray ’76), Quinn Roux (yellow card ’19 to ’29); Jarrad Butler (captain), Conor Oliver (Seán Masterson ’53), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Conor Fitzgerald.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Huw Jones; Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Stan McDowall (Peter Horne ’63), Robbie Nairn (Ratu Tagive ’52); Adam Hastings, Ali Price (George Horne ’71); Oli Kebble (Aki Seiuli ’61), Fraser Brown (captain) (George Turner ’76), Darcy Rae; Rob Harley, Scott Cummings (Richie Gray ’71); Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro (Fotu Lokotui ’63), Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: Enrique Pieretto.

Referee: Craig Evans [Wales].

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss the provinces’ 2020/21 starts, the South African-infused Pro16, and the schools-versus-clubs dynamic in Ireland

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Sportsground

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