The Premiership Clubs have just had a 2 week break from playing; which means the officials have had the same time to have a bit of chat and a brush up of the laws and their interpretation. Since the Barbarians debacle, involving 13 players, there have been 6 appearances before the Disciplinary Committee for those playing the mens’ game, 2 for the women.

So, across the game at the highest club level , 8 offences deemed to reach the threshold for a red card, yet, only Adriaan Esterhuizen, Quins (Strike with the Elbow) and Patricia Rodriguez, Exeter Chiefs Women (Tip Tackle) actually had a red card brandished at them during the game.

In the case of Esterhuizen the incident happened in the 44th minute, his team went on to beat Gloucester, so Quins coped with a man down; Gloucester did however lose their fly half Lloyd Evans. Esterhuizen’s actions were deemed to be reckless rather than deliberate and worthy of a mid-point sanction of 6 weeks that was then reduced by 2 weeks – a 4 week ban therefore.

Exeter Chiefs Women, Rodriguez team also won against Bristol Bears – the offence was deemed to be at the low end at 6 weeks and also deemed reckless rather than intentional. The charge in this instance was contested seeing a smaller deduction of just 1 week – a 5 week ban.

That leaves 6 offences a Citing Commissioner deemed to be deserving of a red card that saw the player staying in the game. Let’s look at them in date order, with an extract from the Citing Officer to the hearings.

  • Stuart Townsend – Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs – 5-12-2020. Offence 9.20 Dangerous charging in a ruck or maul. The injured Leicester player passed the HIA, so continued. Tigers were in the lead at the time of the offence but the game finished Leicester 13 Exeter 35.
    • The offence was admitted
    • Townsend drops his shoulder, dives off his feet to the right of the ball carrier, towards Leicester 11 who is still on the ground. He continues forward and makes contact with his shoulder to the head of Leicester 11. The right arm of Exeter 9 is behind his body and is not attempting to bind. Exeter 9 is not in close proximity to the ball and is never over the ball making a legitimate supporting action. The point of contact is shoulder to head, with a high level of force and a high level of danger, with nothing to mitigate it down from a red card.
    • Harry Simmons – Leicester 11 sustained a concussion from the incident
    • The panel found that this was an intentional act of charging over a ruck, more so than charging into one
    • This was deemed to be a Top-end offence with a starting point of 10 weeks
    • a 5 week deduction was given
    • a 5 week ban
  • Shaunagh Brown – Worcester Warriors Women v Harlequins Ladies – 20-12-2020. Offence 9.13 Dangerous Tackling. The tackle didn’t injure the Worcester player. The final result was Worcester 12 Harlequins 24
    • The offence was admitted
    • Worcester 14 catches the ball and is immediately tackled by Quins 11, who scrag tackles her around her waist slowing down her momentum but crucially Worcester 14 does not drop in height. Quins 3 comes in to assist in the tackle and makes an upright tackle, making initial contact with the neck/head with force to Worcester 14. There is no drop in height from Worcester 14 (ball carrier) and tehre is a clear line of sight for Quins 3 to make the tackle and she makes no attempt to lower her tackle height. In summary there is a high tackle with a high degree of danger and there are no mitigating factors.
    • The Worcester 14 wasn’t injured as a result of the tackle
    • The offence was deemed to be reckless
    • This was deemed to be a Mid-range offence – 6 weeks
    • A 3 week deduction was given
    • A 3 week ban
  • Ah See Tuala – Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors – 26-12-2020. Offence 9.12 Kicking and/or Reckless or Dangerous Play. The Worcester player hit carried on playing. The final result was Northampton Saints 29 Worcester 10
    • The offence was not admitted
    • Northampton 11 (Tuala) comes from behind the 22, and locks on the ball, he approaches diagonallly to the path of teh ball and jumps to catch it, Worcester 7 (Mama) is following the ball and as he passes N2 (Matavesi) & N9 (Mitchell) he slows down his approach in order to avoid contact in the air with N9. Tuala jumps by bending and swinging his right knee to gain as much height as possible. As he catches the ball, he begins his descent but leaves his right leg, now extended, up in the air. This sees his right foot makes contact with W7…. An act of foul play where N11 jumps to catch the ball and while descending kicks W7 on the face with his right foot.
    • The offence was NOT PROVEN
  • Daniel du Preez – Gloucester Rugby v Sale Sharks – 02-01-2021. Offence 9.11 Dangerous/Reckless Play, originally 9.12. The Gloucester player involved had to leave the game. The final result was Gloucester 19 Sale 22
    • The offence was admitted
    • From a chip ahead by Sale in the midfield, teh ball is caught by Gloucester n0 13 Chris Harris. He is tackled by Sale no 21 who wrestles Harris to the ground. As the Gloucester player is sitting on the ground, Sale No 8 Daniel du Preez drives in and makes contact initially with his right shoulder to the back of the neck of Harris…. The degree of danger was high. There are no clear and obvious mitigation factors. As a result I am citing the Sale player under law 9.12
    • Medical evidence stated that the Gloucester player was deemed not to have suffered from a concussive injury. In spite of failing both his HIA1 and HIA2 assessments
    • The initial charge 9.12 was not proven, 9.11 was proven
    • The offence was deemed to be reckless
    • This was deemed a Mid-range offence – 6 weeks
    • A 3 week deduction was given
    • A 3 week ban
  • Ed Slater – Gloucester Rugby v Sale Sharks – 02-01-2021. Offence 9.20 Dangerous play in a ruck or maul. Van der Merwe stayed on the pitch. The final result was Gloucester 19 Sale 22
    • The offence was admitted
    • Gloucester 7 (Ludlow) carries the ball into contact near the touchline. He goes to ground and Sale 2 Van der Merwe goes in to get the ball. GL3 (Balmain) comes in and is in the process of taking SL2 off the ball. Slater dives in leading with his right shoulder making contact initilly to the top of SL2’s headwith his right arm trailing… It is a shoulder charge, degree of danger is high. There are no mitigation factors. Therefore It is foul play and I have cited Ed Slater.
    • Charge 9.11 was not prove, Charge 9.20 was proven
    • The offence was deemed to be reckless
    • This was deemed a MId-range offence – 6 weeks
    • A 2 week deduction was given
    • A 4 week ban
  • Kyle Sinckler – Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears – 09-01-2021. Offence 9.28 Failing to respect the authority of the match officials. No other players were involved. The final score was Exeter Chiefs 7 Bristol Bears 20
    • The offence was not admitted
    • Following a no arms tackle, by the Exeter 2 the referee says ‘ I think he wrapped, believe he’s wrapped 2 arms. Sinckler, the tackled player screams “Are you F*cking serious?” directly aimed at the referee… The referee warns Sinckler ‘if you scream like that at me again you will leave the field. The language you used is unacceptable…… Having reviewd the video there is no doubt that Sinckler has A. Used foul language directed at the match official. B. Disrespected the authority of the match official. C. Was aggressive in the manner in which he spoke to the match official…. Under the PRL’s definition of conduct prejudical to the values of the game – Swearing at a match official should be sanctioned with a red card.
    • The offence was proven
    • The offence was deliberate
    • This was deemed a Low-end offence – 2 weeks
    • No deduction was given
    • A 2 week ban

And there we have it; 6 offences that were cited as having reached the threshold for a red card. A total of 17 weeks of actual bans. There’s a team of 4 officials at Premiership rugby games, the referee clearly can’t see everything, but TMO’s regularly intervene as do the Assistant referees. Several of these offences were picked up on the day, and deemed to be ok. That, has to be a concern, especially when we’re looking at dangerous play. There seemed to have been no howlers in the 3 matches I’ve watched this weekend, but I’ll be watching the results of the Disciplinary Panels with interest for the rest of the season.

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