Aki sees red as Connacht fall to the champions in South Africa

The hosts recorded a bonus-point win over the western province in Stellenbosch.

Bundee Aki (file pic).;
Bundee Aki (file pic).;
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THAT THE SCORELINE slightly flatters the Stormers will be of no consolation to Connacht after another frustrating away performance, this time in Stellenbosch.

The defending champions ran in three tries after Bundee Aki’s sending off for a dangerous clear-out, a swing made all the more torturous by the fact that the centre’s infringement saw what could have been a pivotal Connacht score chalked off the board.

Tom Farrell’s disallowed try — the finishing touch to a rare, brilliant team move — would have brought the western province to within a score of their hosts in the second half but given their general inaccuracy, it’s hard to know whether Connacht would have kicked on even from that juncture.

Their defence was again too porous, their set piece flaky and their attack not good enough to make sufficient inroads. To make matters worse, they also lost scrum-half Caolin Blade to a nasty-looking ankle injury.

Last season’s standout URC player, Evan Roos, opened the scoring for the hosts with a barnstorming run, bouncing Mack Hansen on his way to the line from halfway. Stormers led 13-8 at the break, Dylan Tierney-Martin’s maul score after Connacht’s first sustained spell of pressure keeping his side in touch.

Through the boot of Manie Libbok, Stormers had stretched their lead out to 19-8 when Aki was shown red. Tom Farrell went over from a deft cross-kick by David Hawkshaw but upon a TMO review, Aki was seen to make firm, shoulder-to-head contact on Seabelo Senatla during an attempted clear-out in the build-up. It was a definite red card, and Aki did himself no favours by protesting the decision of referee Gianluca Gnecchi.

Quickfire tries by Andre-Hugo Venter and Hacjivah Dayimani wrapped up the result for Stormers against their 14-man opposition, and Marcel Theunissen earned the hosts a four-try bonus point in second-half stoppage time.

Venter’s score will be one of the tries of the season such was the beauty of the link-up play which put him in.

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Jack Aungier, meanwhile, dotted down for Connacht late on with the game all but dead.

That makes it two defeats in two for Connacht to start their season, and they meet the Bulls, Munster and Leinster in their next three.

Stormers, meanwhile, have picked up where they left off their remarkable championship-winning campaign last term.

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