Sat 15 Jan 2022 | 10:06

Aki apologises to ref after onfield spat

Aki apologises to ref after onfield spat
Sat 15 Jan 2022 | 10:06
Aki apologises to ref after onfield spat
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REACTION: Ireland midfielder Bundee Aki will hope that his tweeted apology will be enough to stave off a possible EPCR citing, following his tempestuous on-field argument with referee Mathieu Raynal.

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The onfield spat came in the immediate aftermath of the final whistle in Galway on Saturday after Connacht were beaten 29-28 by Leicester in a thrilling Champions Cup match.

Aki’s Irish side had lit up the skies when storming back from an early ten-point first-half deficit to lead 28-10 with a four-try bonus point clinched early in the second half.

However, their match was to unravel from there as the Premiership leaders fought their way back and they eventually clinched victory with a last-gasp try in the corner from replacement Hosea Saumaki.

The wing took an exceptional pass from Dan Kelly before evading the tackle of Tiernan O’Halloran and then managing to dive over the goal-line despite the attentions of the final defender John Porch, touching down with 79:02 showing on the clock.

Raynal signalled a try but he then consulted with his fellow officials just to be doubly sure, asking his TMO: “Can we check foot in touch before the grounding, please?” This led to the referee running to the opposite end of The Sportsground to check the legality of the win-snatching score.

Despite the hopes of Connacht supporters that Saumaki’s left foot had somehow grazed the touchline before he grounded the ball to finish off a belter of a try, the review showed there was no foot in touch.

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“It is not on the line so I will stay with the onfield decision which is a try,” remarked Raynal before running back down the field to blow his whistle and confirm the dramatic score that put Leicester into the lead at the death.

The matter didn’t end there, though. As soon as the referee blew his whistle for full-time following the missed sideline conversion kick from Freddie Burns, the official was confronted by Connacht talisman Aki whose words could be heard via the ref mic audible on the live TV footage of the game.

With a chorus of boos ringing around the ground from home supporters unhappy that their team had been agonisingly beaten in the final seconds, Aki didn’t hold back in venting his frustrations and he was heard saying to the ref: “That is not fair. That’s not right. That is not fair.”

Raynal replied to Aki: “What is not fair?”

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“You knew it was on the line, you can see it. You can see it,” retorted Aki. “I don’t want another apology. We have had too many apologies in our game.”

Raynal, though, had the last say, reprimanding Aki by insisting: “It is not on the line, you will apologise. Thank you.”

Raynal was ultimately proven correct that Aki would be the one doing the apologies as the Connacht player soon posted his mea culpa to Twitter.

“Like to apologise about my action towards the referee and officials, kids who were watching. Absolutely not needed in this game. Emotions were high and that is certainly not an excuse for my actions. Definitely will take the loss on the chin and will be looking at myself.”

The post-game Aki incident was understandably debated online. Responding to ex-Leicester player Austin Healey, one Twitter user wrote: “Bundee Aki should be ashamed of himself, having a go at the referee when the match was finished. Emotion and passion is one thing. Stepped well over the line and deserves significant criticism and public apology is required. A minimum. And I know it’s out of character as he’s a top bloke.”

Radio commentator Andrew McKenna added: “Bundee Aki could well be looking at a meeting with the disciplinary panel after that. You might be disappointed – but that was out of order. TMO has looked close up on an HD TV at it and decided it wasn’t in touch. I hope he apologises to the ref once he collects his thoughts.”

With a Six Nations campaign on the horizon with Ireland, Aki will hope that his apology following his unwarranted outburst will be enough to ward off the attention of the match citing commissioner amid a climate where the rugby authorities have been clamping down on criticisms of referees.

Northampton boss Chris Boyd was suspended just last Thursday for two games by the RFU while Jersey coach Harvey Biljon was banned for one after their recent criticisms following matches in England.

By Liam Heagney, RugbyPass

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