Connacht’s season is almost over but there is still some light at the end of the tunnel as they look to secure Champions Cup rugby for next season.
Unfortunately for the western province, automatic qualification through the PRO12 is no longer possible but they look set to enter a playoff format against either French or English opposition in order to achieve top-level European participation next season.
Although Pat Lam is leaving for Bristol once this season has finished, he can leave a parting gift to fans by getting them through what looks to be a rather difficult playoff process.
Unfortunately for Connacht, their chances of doing so have been dealt a major blow due to the suspension to key player, Bundee Aki.
The bulldozing centre found himself in hot water a few weeks ago when he made remarks to referee Ian Davies during their derby clash with Leinster in Galway.
Aki received a number of warnings throughout that game and the referee also needed to have a word with captain John Muldoon regarding the 27-year-old’s behaviour.
Aki was charged this week and has now been banned for three games, missing his side’s final two PRO12 fixtures in addition to their playoff semi-final.
He will be available for the playoff final should Connacht reach it.
PRO12 have released the following statement relating to the issue:
The complaint referred to Mr Aki’s behaviour to and remarks directed toward, referee Ian Davies, during and immediately after the Round 20 fixture between Connacht Rugby and Leinster Rugby (April 15, 2017).
Those actions were deemed to constitute misconduct under the tournament’s Disciplinary Rules, in particular pursuant to the clauses set out in Section 3.
Mr Aki admitted to the charge of misconduct and the Panel, chaired by Roger Morris with Simon Thomas as wing (both Wales), agreed upon a sanction of a three-match suspension.
The player can return to play on Monday, May 22, 2017.
Mr Aki was reminded of his right to appeal.
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