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Thursday, April 12, 2012

John Afoa suspended for four weeks for dangerous tackle

Ulster's John Afoa has been suspended for four weeks following a dangerous tip tackle he made on Munster's Felix Jones in the second half of their Heineken Cup quarter final at Thomond Park on Sunday. Here is a look at it, and an explanation of the ruling.

All Black prop Afoa attended the disciplinary hearing in Dublin earlier today, accompanied by both legal representatives, and those from his Belfast based club, Ulster Rugby.

According to the ERC, he was cited by commisioner Peter Larter after there were concerns about a fairly dangerous looking tackle - according to the laws - he made on Munster fullback Felix Jones.

Afoa pleaded not guilty, but after independant Judicial Officer Jean-Noel Couraud had all the evidence presented to him, he felt that the tackle was in fact worthy of a Red Card. The tackle was deemed to fall under Law 10.4(j), Lifting a player from the ground and either dropping or driving that player's head and/or upper body into the ground whilst the player's feet are off the ground.

Couraud concluded that it was at the mid-range entry point of six weeks, and added an extra week as a deterrent, in line with the IRB's directive to stamp these types of tackles out of the game.

Law 10.4(j) is as follows: Low End: 3 weeks; Mid Range: 6 weeks; Top End: 10+ to 52 weeks.

Mitigating factors such as Afoa's clean record, good character, age, and experience were taken into account, so judicial officer Couraud allowed a reduction of three weeks, therefore imposing the final suspension of four weeks. They have the right to appeal.

Here's a quick look at the tackle. Lets us know what you think of the ruling as a comment below.

Posted at 1:10 pm | 66 comments

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Posted in Big Hits & Dirty Play

Viewing 66 comments

Stubby April 12, 2012 2:20 pm

Owww

Shoulder and neck driven into the ground.
Deserved.

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Ash April 12, 2012 2:23 pm

That's a joke. I'm pretty harsh on people who commit spear tackles but to be honest I think that was pretty much fine.

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Curates_Egg April 12, 2012 2:50 pm

You mean you're pretty harsh on people who commit spear tackles, so long as they're not from Ulster.

That was a spear tackle and a dangerous one. Head and shoulder driven into the ground after Afoa lifts his legs. Jones was lucky not to be injured - the way his shoulder hit the ground he could have easily dislocated it.

I am a neutral, who was delighted Ulster won and will be rooting for Ulster in the semi, so thing its a shame to see him miss the semi but please take off the blinkers.

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Rich_W April 12, 2012 8:02 pm

I'm fed up of the 'he was lucky not to be injured' or 'lucky not to have broken his neck' lines. Name me one 'tip tackle' which has been punished in the last year or so where a player has broken/injured anything.

There have been an awful lot of ridiculous bans/red cards, a lot of them featured here on RD, can't bring to mind any where the recipient was seriously injured. Despite the amount of people who harp on about 'he could have broken his neck'

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Chris April 12, 2012 2:31 pm

Worthy of the 3 weeks and only because that's the minimum. However there is inconsistency between this decision and the one made banning Dylan Hartley, who got less than the minimum sentence because of good references from Rowntree and Mallinder (his coaches who were always going to give him good references let's be honest) despite his terrible record.

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Alexander Ioannou April 12, 2012 2:33 pm

Dangerous yes, intentional no.

You can see there Afoa did everything right from the training camp. This has happened to me before and its usually because you go to make a hit but a player is lighter than expected and you lift them off the ground.

Tackling taught to players is aim for the waist, go low to high, driving into the tackle.

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grandslam90 April 12, 2012 2:36 pm

This great game is being sanatised,soon it will be illegal to tackle.I have seen worse week in week out go unpunished.

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Conchubhair April 12, 2012 2:36 pm

I'd have to say it doesn't really look pretty, but it's still harsh. It'd be a different story had he stayed on his feet to tip Jones, but that to me is just a good, fair, hard tackle. No follow through, very little intent... I reckon harsh.

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Sam April 12, 2012 2:36 pm

That is seriously a joke. sure it didnt look good but afoa stayed with him and didnt let him go until they hit the deck. the only reason he went past horizontal was because he reached for the ball which he lost control of bcos of a great hit. no suspension should have been given

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stroudos April 12, 2012 2:37 pm

Jesus wept. Afoa's practically lying under Jones when he lands.

Great tackle. Awful pass.

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Curates_Egg April 12, 2012 2:46 pm

What a ridiculous statement. Afoa picks him, lifts his legs and drives him headfirst into the ground. Should have been a red and 4 weeks seems right - taking the different factors into account. Jones is lucky not to have dislocated his shoulder.

I am a neutral, who was delighted Ulster won and will be rooting for Ulster in the semi, so thing its a shame to see him miss the semi but please take off the blinkers.

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stroudos April 12, 2012 3:32 pm

You posted the same final paragraph in response to another message above also. While it might be fair to infer from Ash's avatar that he's an Ulster fan, I wonder how a picture of Caucau makes you think I have any bias towards either of these teams?

I'm even more neutral (oxymoron I know) than you. I just find this constant banning of players for excellent tackles depressing.

Your statement "Afoa picks him, lifts his legs and drives him headfirst into the ground" is completely inaccurate. It should read: Afoa makes the tackle with perfect form, ie at waist height with his shoulders taking the hit and both his arms wrapped round the player. Jones is basically running into an immovable object and his momentum carries him upwards. Afoa, a bit surprised by Jones's light weight, tries to adjust but is unable to - once the bloke's body is tilting headfirst it's almost impossible to shift the balance. Afoa does the best he can, which is to try and get his body lower than Jones's and maybe break his fall a bit.

Massive difference between Afoa's tackle and this, which at the time was celebrated as a great tackle, with not so much as a penalty conceded - what both tackles have in common is neither ball carrier was injured:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbr20VPzBqU


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BuzzKillington April 12, 2012 6:25 pm

Give it up Stroudos, you've been rumbled as the Ulster fan you are! ;)

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littlelondonboy April 12, 2012 2:40 pm

Whilst he deserved a ban for the tackle, (the laws are clear, it was definitely a tip tackle, the penalty for doing one is a ban) it is made much more harsh by the fact he's gonna miss the next HC game.

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d April 12, 2012 2:42 pm

They should cite the referees when they let these tackles go. Roman Poite should be banned for 4 weeks too.

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Spud April 12, 2012 11:54 pm

Spot the bitter Munster Fan!

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Spud April 12, 2012 11:54 pm

Spot the bitter Munster Fan!

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Rob April 12, 2012 2:49 pm

Poor decision: there is no 'driving' of Jones into the ground, what should be considered is the immediacy of the pass from Zebo, there is no lining up of the tackle, Jones hits the inside shoulder of Afoa at pace, a larger man standing slightly crouched who does not adjust his legs or feet to effect a driving motion, nor does he drive forward.
Afoa does lift the right leg of Jones as a result Jones shoulder hits the ground a split second before Afoa's knee, should have been a low end three week sentence with two weeks suspended. Afoa has never had a yellow or red card before. Appeal.

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Ali Fitz April 12, 2012 2:51 pm

It is a bit dodgy but (I am a Munster fan) as far as I'm aware Jones is grand.
Is a ban necessary? Really? Is there no agreement for a token slap on the wrist (3wks, reduced to 2 for reasons listed) and then let him play against Edinburgh.
This is beginning a bit of a joke with bans every week because big players are making big hits and people topple when they're at full pace.
Zebo should have got a yellow for adeliberate hospital pass if you ask me!

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skaggs April 12, 2012 2:58 pm

a good call in my opinion, I literally just got a grade 3 seperarion in my shoulder in my clubs first game of the season last week and now I'm out for the season...No fun at all. Watching this makes me cringe. dudes lucky he came out uninjured

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stroudos April 12, 2012 3:02 pm

A grade 3 seperarion? Sound painful...

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AndrewG April 12, 2012 3:31 pm

Touch and go in my opinion; he did lift the players legs up and didn't 'bring him to the ground safely' but to me it was more him turning with the tackle and hammering him. Definitely shoulder into the ground first, and I guess as the shoulder is part of the upper body it is classified as a spear tackle, so harsh but technically correct and if they want to eliminate spear tackles from the game they need to punish all cases so players are more careful when executing a tackle

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Mlovesrugby April 12, 2012 3:41 pm

Yes I think he should have the suspension that was a crazy tackle so yes he does deserve it! Luckily the guy didnt dislocated his shoulder that easily could have happened

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SCHULL KRUSHER April 12, 2012 4:09 pm

(Munster fan) - Tough for any player making that sort of tackle at that speed not to end up with the player in a vulnerable position, however its the "bringing him to the ground safely" that AndrewG mentioned earlier that is at issue - having said that Ali Fitz has the suspension spot on (3wks, reduced to 2 for reasons listed) and then let him play against Edinburgh) - if indeed, any is even deserved - should have been handled on the pitch by the ref maybe?
Oh well, time to start cheering for Ulster and Leinster.

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Zen April 12, 2012 4:18 pm

not suspension worthy, seen worse go for less! great tackle in my opinion.

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rugby08 April 12, 2012 4:30 pm

Munster player milked it afterwards

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esatbt April 12, 2012 5:08 pm

How did Munster milked it? The ref in question does not like Munster and this proves it. He left a spear tackle go. That would have turned the game, what is worse than a bad team is a bad ref who turns a blind eye to spear tackles.

It happened in the 6 nations this year, a player who done a spear tackle only got yellow and yellow card to player who done the perfect tackle only to get cleared later. Even independant Judicial Officer Jean-Noel Couraud felt that the tackle was in fact worthy of a Red Card.

How did Munster milk so if he even get a yellow.

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Spud April 13, 2012 12:05 am

You're completely right about (I assume you're talking about) the two incidents in the Wales/Ireland game, with Ferris getting the same level of punishment as Bradley Davis, who could nearly have been done for assault, but I think that is reflected by the fact that both Dave Pearson and Wayne Barnes have been removed from the IRB elite panel. The Afoa tackle was, at worst, a yellow card offence. It was momentum and difference in weight between the two players that made it so much worse than it was intended to be, Afoa has never had a yellow or red card in his career and I can't help but feel that the ban was a little unfair, especially with the crucial semi-final coming up in a few weeks. I hope that Paddy McAllister or Declan Fitzpatrick will be fit and ready to fill Afoas place, as this makes Ulster's job against Edinburgh so much harder.

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Guy April 12, 2012 4:38 pm

Is age a mitigating factor? Good: I will be able to get away with murder on the pitch then...lol.

To the letter of the law I guess a ban is correct. I don't think there was intent and I do think that he tried to minimize the damage when he went down. But that is just my interpretation and it is hard to base a judgement purely on speculation.

However: I do suspect that the sentence would have been lower if he pleaded quilty. And that is one thing I find worrying. A player is actually forced to play quilty, even if in his own honest opinion he isn't just to get a lower sentence.



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Chris April 12, 2012 4:39 pm

These tackles are inevitable given the physical condition and massive upper body strength of these guys. This must be taken into account in the future laws or be subjected to increasingly ridiculous bans for innocuous intent

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URFC15 April 12, 2012 4:44 pm

I think its a bit harsh, ive had plenty of dislocations but i still don't think these sort of tackles should get such a severe ban, if seen in a game yellow card at most. i agree its not great and could cause injury, but 4 weeks is harsh.

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oldtauntonian April 12, 2012 5:01 pm

Hospital pass. Great tackle. End of. Game's gone soft.

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esatbt April 12, 2012 5:10 pm

That was the turning point in the game and the Ref made it. Bad call, and this Ref does not like Munster.

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Tobes62 April 12, 2012 5:27 pm

Yeah really should not be allowed in touch rugby.
Think I'll stick to watching real men play RL.

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q April 12, 2012 5:48 pm

I think that might be a penalty. But definitely not a card or ban. As Pete de Villiers says, "Rugby is not a contact sport, dancing is. Rugby is a COLLISION sport."

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BarryT April 12, 2012 5:55 pm

this tackling business is going to have to get an encyclopedia length law book for itself, while "technically" this is a spear tackle, he went with jones in the air, and momentum carried jones' shoulder into the ground. Comparing this to the warburton/clerc incident, clerc's momentum flipped him upside down and landed on his neck blah blah we all know what happened! I don't like saying it but i think that tackle incidents like these if spotted by any official (including a TMO) should stop play immediatly, review it there and then on the TMO and give the player the punishment, be it a yellow/red, then let a citing comissioner decide a ban etc.

Second point! Rugby is a contact sport, if someone tackled someone so hard with a legal tackle that, lets say, broke the defenders ribs, should they get a ban for the intent to smash him? We've all been there where we've gone in full tilt to smash someone like! If, say, Afoa here hadn't gone in as hard on jones, jones may have broken the line and potentially scored?? I'd be interested to hear peoples opinion of that.

My ruling of that is that it should have been a yellow card, and MAYBE a week or two ban.

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RunningRugby4 April 12, 2012 6:25 pm

I disagree with what you said about stopping game immediately. I believe that advantage should be played first. If nothing comes out from that, then we look at the TMO
But good pint...point

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jeppy89 April 13, 2012 6:45 am

genius.... a yellow card? so not worthy of getting sent off but he should be banned for a week or two, those two are kind of conflicting ideas pal.

lifts the player then drives sideways if not backwards and lands at the same time as the man, pretty impressive to drive him into to the floor and land at the same time.

shit pass, great tackle, ruining the game

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terminan April 12, 2012 6:00 pm

what a utter and complete hospital pass from zebo. He is as much responsible for the tackle as afoa

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terminan April 12, 2012 6:00 pm

what a utter and complete hospital pass from zebo. He is as much responsible for the tackle as afoa

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terminan April 12, 2012 6:02 pm

^^^^why on earth did i post that twice!

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Ruggers13 April 12, 2012 6:59 pm

Rugby League players will be laughing at this, great tackle, time people hardened up its not football. If he lands on his neck ban him, that looked fine.

Sale Fan.

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karimabuseer April 12, 2012 7:35 pm

As a prop, I think this is pretty unfair. Loads of little guys running into you at full pace, it's hard not to lift them. The drive is very rarely intentional.

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Lars April 12, 2012 8:06 pm

he landed on his arm not his shoulder or head, ok it may have been a bit physical and risky, but rugby as a game is physical and risky, to be honest i think its a bit harsh on him

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Juggernauter April 12, 2012 8:58 pm

This whole banning players thing is getting out of hand. That was a yellow card, OK, but seriously? A player with a white, clean record, suspended for 4 weeks? That's mad.

Bans should be saved for the Cudmores, Bakkies and Henry Tuilagi's of this world. Ban those who show real intent, who clearly WANT to hurt the other player, who apparently do it for fun. But things like this will happen in a gsme of rugby, then apply the law and let the game continue. What are cards for if not!?

And the IRB are just being stupid. Out of these kind of tackles the odd player gets injured once or twice a year, but the scrum nowadays is way riskier and they are turning a blind eye on that.

Please, please don't kill rugby.

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Spud April 13, 2012 12:08 am

Very good point!

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Juggernauter April 13, 2012 2:44 am

Haha which one exactly mate?

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Spud April 13, 2012 12:06 pm

Whole thing, but suspension definitely should be saved for those who maliciously go out to hurt others, not for mistakes such as Afoa's hit

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Spud April 13, 2012 12:06 pm

Whole thing, but suspension definitely should be saved for those who maliciously go out to hurt others, not for mistakes such as Afoa's hit

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Juggernauter April 12, 2012 9:00 pm

Also, I suspect this whole banning players for so called tip tackles is just a scapegoat the IRB are using 'cause they can't fix the scrum.

Just do your goddamn jobs!!

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quins1 April 12, 2012 9:43 pm

i ave beeen on the wrong and right end of tackles like this before but they r dangerous and he deserved to be banned

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flanker2712 April 12, 2012 10:03 pm

Can someone explain how age and experience are mitigating factors? Given they are already considering his remarkably clean record as a mitigating factor, I would have thought age and experience are aggravating factors i.e. a player with his age and experince should have know better attitude toward.

And who on earth came up with the idea of one additional week as a deterrent? Surely the IRB should be setting the standard length of ban at sufficient levels to act as a deterrent.

The process seems a bit of a farce. The low end, mid range, top end categories and endless list of additional factors are intended by the IRB to provide transparency but just add to the inconsistency at the referee level.

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johndoe April 12, 2012 11:16 pm

@flanker2712

I was wondering the same thing. I can understand how age is a factor if you are around 20 and how experience might be a factor e.g. if this was his first season. Loads of NZ caps, over a century in Super Rugby and 10+ for Ulster? And 28 years old? That makes no sense.

I really like Ulster and Afoa is one of my favourite props. Those factors make no sense and it looks completely intentional to me. He even takes his own legs off the ground. You only do that at the end of the movement of a genuine dump tackle (completely different body positions for both players. Afoa's tackle was nothing like that...


I just don't get the citings these days. This still isn't as bad as the citing of England internationals though... Those are pathetic.

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RedYeti April 13, 2012 7:28 pm

Age is a mitigating factor when you have reached the point Afoa is at in his career without a single yellow card, red card or ban. It is just an extension of the mitigation for having a clean record: the longer it's been clean for the better it looks.

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johndoe April 15, 2012 12:25 am

Reaching a certain age without a card / ban is having a clean record... same thing.

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HeavyHooker April 13, 2012 2:34 am

The thing that has me thinking about why the 3 weeks can be seen in the photo above, Afoa tips, twists, and if you notice, actually has his feet leave the ground to drop Jones. There is absolutely no control or attempt to safely place Jones to the ground. As a board, that may be the reason, Afoa's feet leave the ground. The book says it is a citing, Afoe does a bad tackle, simple.

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stew April 13, 2012 9:11 am

that is not a spear, afoa landed on the ground first, jones is in the air trying to catch his original knock on,,thee is no way to avoid landing like this sometimes,,,,ruining the game

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saintjude April 13, 2012 10:04 am

So, so, so tired of the spear/tip tackle debacle. The current laws are ruining the game and the reputations of some very honest players. The truth of the matter is that the simple physics involved in any tackle situation mean that you will never erradicate the liklihood of someone landing on their head or neck. Momentum, angle of approach, difference in height and weight, whether the tackled player changes position when he/she is in the air, last minute change of direction etc etc are all factors which cannot be removed from the tackle situation. When you're taught to tackle safely, you get taught to bend your knees drive into the player and upwards to remove their momentum. Do we now need to revise how tackling is coached ? Such a frustrating matter. Red cards and yellow cards are more prevalent now than ever, but the game is certainly not a dirtier game than it has been. In fact I'd sat it's a lot cleaner. Compared to days gone by you don't see anything like the number of punch-ups or dirty play. The game is evolving and I appreciate that there are safety issues but we must understand that rugby is a highly physical game and there is a risk element involved, like any contact sport. To me there is a clear difference between driving a player's head or shoulders into the ground and simply a tackle where the player has gone into the air and through circumstance may land on his upper body first. I understand the referees are bound by the law makers rules but the sooner something realistic is brought into place the better There have been too many examples of players suffering bans for what I would consider a part of the game.
Warburton in the World Cup was not a red card but a great offensive tackle (but I get that under the current laws he had to go), Digby Ioane against the Sharks was not a red card for me just another great offensive tackle on a bigger man, and Afoa's tackle was for me just a great hit. What's next, a 3 week ban for a crooked throw-in?

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themull April 13, 2012 11:35 am

This is getting beyond a joke at this stage..The tackle was fine, nobody got injured and nobody would be complaining he hadn't of been cited....

I cant remember anybody who has been seriously injured by a one of these so called "spear tackles"...This all comes from what Tana and kevin did to BOD which is not even comparable to any of these tackles since, BOD didn't even have the ball and he was actually driven head first vertically into the ground..

These tackles are where guys might land slightly on their shoulders, and the tackler is getting banned for weeks...The current rules or interpretation of the rules are a joke and are taking a lot away from the game itself, where nearly every hard tackle is being questioned, be it a dump tackle or a so called shoulder hit...

The only tackles I believe that should be getting bans are where a guy is actually driven head first into the ground or is picked up and dropped down head first..All of these tackles, Afoa here,Warbutons agains france and many more, are perfectly fine, there were no serious or long terms injuries and there was no serious intent to maim the player..Of course they want to hurt the player they're tackling, that's a tacklers job remember but none of these guys went out to try and break a guys shoulder or neck etc...

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Dave April 13, 2012 12:25 pm

Should it not be taken into consideration that a fullback is running into a prop, which is basically a meal for John Afoa? Someone as big and as strong as that it must be simple to pick a fullback up. Although it does look like he drove him into the ground, the man is off balance so it makes it easier for Afoa to lose control of him. I am an Ulster fan so will obviously say this though! However, if Gavin Henson made his famous dump tackle on Tait, would that be up for suspension now as well??

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stroudos April 13, 2012 3:54 pm

Well, the interesting thing about Henson's tackle on Tait is that he made a huge effort to NOT dump him - and succeeded in doing so: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZk4atcx3gg

The irony is, with all the chat about tip tackles potentially causing "career-threatening injuries", the result of Henson avoiding that was a utter humiliation for Tait, with a devastating effect on his career. Having done so well to get himself in the elite England squad, this single tackle - which presumably is the type the lawmakers want all tackles to be like - put Tait's international career on ice for over two years.

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Gonzalo Olias April 13, 2012 2:33 pm

Lets all play Rugby-Tag... so no problem about "dangerous" contact and suspensions...

I can't find the intention anywhere... this is a contact game... or maybe not???

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MikeCo April 13, 2012 3:44 pm

Hmmm, to me the tackle is fine, up until the point he hops in the air.

The tackle is good but Jones's motion carries him over the top. At this point Afoa seems to decide he cant send him back, but rather than stopping he puahes off on one leg and tries to come down through the shoulder into jones.

Thats fine if he is going on to his back or side, its the perfect tackle, but take a look at this photo of Jones position. Im pretty sure Afoa knew from the little hop, but did it regardless.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/apr/12/ulster-john-afoa-heineken-cup

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Pretzel April 13, 2012 4:26 pm

break out your tutus

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ZMasterX77 April 19, 2012 10:42 pm

I'm not a fan of either team, but it seems like it was an unintentional dangerous tackle. It looks like Afoa just lost his balance in the tackle and had no intentions of a spear tackle.

No one will really know his intentions, but considering his clean record, I would assume it was an accident.

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