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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

James Haskell banned for punches on Cheetah Justin Downey

England flanker James Haskell was cited and subsequently banned for punching against the Cheetahs following the Highlanders' 36-33 win in Bloemfontein. He was yellow carded at the time, despite the assistant referees recommending a higher sanction.

The Highlanders were down to 14 men after hooker Andrew Hore had been sinbinned for a ruck infringement, then shortly after that Haskell joined him on the sidelines.

He has been banned for striking Cheetahs loose forward Justin Downey twice in the face, and pleaded guilty to the offence, receiving a three match suspension.

"Haskell is alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 (a) Punching or Striking when he struck Cheetahs player Justin Downey twice as he left a scrum that was being completed," said SANZAR.

"The referee for the match, Marius Jonker, consulted his assistant referees and issued both a yellow and white card for the incident. Upon further review of the match footage the citing commissioner deemed in his opinion the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play."

Referee Jonker appeared to change his mind at the last minute, playing it safe by going for the Yellow and the White, rather than sticking to the original call of a Red card. It's the second week in a row he's been involved in a controversial call. 

It's difficult to see what provoked Haskell, other than what could have possibly been a tight grip in an uncomfortable place. Either that or he was just being held back for too long for his liking.

The first replay of the incident failed to show both punches, but later in the game they showed another angle, which has been included here, and that clearly shows the two punch combo that not only sparked a further scuffle, but resulted in Downey having to leave the field with a blood injury.

Update: This post been modified to include the suspension info, as it was originally written before the disciplinary hearing. Apologies for the confusion.

Posted by Rugbydump at 7:05 am | View Comments (35)

Posted in Big Hits & Dirty Play

Viewing 35 comments

Citing Commissioner May 01, 2012 8:52 am

just a little biff between two flankers as a scrum breaks up. Nothing to write home about, no citing necessary at all!

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Richard Church Keen May 01, 2012 8:58 am

recommendation was red.... could he not find the correct card? took an age and then just says 'i'm going for yellow'. way to undermine the lino's ref!!

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stroudos May 01, 2012 11:54 am

Re white card / referral...
Has Jonker actually stitched Haskell up by going for a less severe sanction? If he'd given red at the time - which would quite evidently have been the correct call - would that be the end of it (ie no citing)? Can the ref show a red card and a white or is it just yellow and white? I would have thought a red card at the time would eliminate the need for any citing and would have been a much fairer decision all round.

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Reality May 01, 2012 1:20 pm

Doesn't a red card automatically lead to a disciplinary hearing though?

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stroudos May 01, 2012 1:33 pm

Well I thought not, in cases where the offence was deemed to have been dealt with sufficiently at the time(?). Must admit, the whole white card bit still remains a bit of a mystery to me.

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MacKurdi May 01, 2012 9:29 am

Didn't Haskell move to Japan to play??

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Rugbydump May 01, 2012 1:32 pm

He did for a short while. Now in NZ, then off to Wasps.

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MacKurdi May 07, 2012 12:18 am

Cheers for that Rugbydump.

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jordan May 01, 2012 9:55 am

its rugby not a tickle contest the flanker shouldnt try and cheat obviously couldnt keep up with haskel fair yellow and no citing as citing is for whining girls who dont like losing grow up and grow a pair its contact fights break out in french rugby no one says a word but an english player throws a frustration punch to a cheating flanker and oh no he is the devil any ever watched ice hockey or american football they are aloud to fight and they are viewed by more families and views than rugby union and league.

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katman May 01, 2012 11:09 am

What video were you watching? Have a look at the punches in the wide shot at the end, bottom right corner. First one lands at 3:27 and the second one at 3:29. That's about as vicious as you get with a two punch combination to the face. If that's not a straight red, then nothing is. Regardless of who was holding onto whom.

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stroudos May 01, 2012 11:51 am

Couple of quality punches though, it must be said.

If there is a case of bollock-squeezing provoking him I like to imagine Haskell telling him as he lands the punches: "Not the bollocks you fucking prick, don't go for the bollocks you cheating fucking cunt!".

(Anyone offended by the language, I'm referring to the bit caught live on TV where he had a go at that Argentine player in the world cup, whom he thought was trying to gouge him).

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Nick May 01, 2012 10:37 am

Haskell was at the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan for a while, but has moved to the Highlanders in the mean time, before moving back to Wasps at the end of the year.

Pity he had to blacken his reputation by doing this. He had been playing well and earned himself a few starts for the highlanders, but he'll probably spend a few weeks off now.

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Steve May 01, 2012 10:46 am

About time the ref's come down on the constant negative play and outright cheating of South African players.
if they'd stop the niggle and concentrate on the footy they're some of the best players in the world, remember their last RWC win, Penalised out of their first game, stopped cheating and won the tournament.
Every week we see Aussie and Kiwi players in the judiciary because referee's allow this crap to go on and some idiot get's the clip he's asking for.
To paraphrase a past All Black captain, "it's not tiddlywinks"

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cheyanqui May 01, 2012 6:32 pm


How about calling it both ways? The niggle comes from players everywhere...

players throwing / handing the ball to the spectators in the front row to avoid a quick lineout, McCaw diving on the ball or holding opponents on the deck, players off their feet at a ruck then reaching up to bind onto an opponent off their feet...

And guess what, there are plenty of Kiwis and Aussies that do it too.

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stroudos May 01, 2012 11:46 am

I'd be interested to hear Haskell's defence/mitigation for this. Not usually a dirty player and I can't think of any previous incident of him throwing punches. RD speculates above that Downey might have had "what could have possibly been a tight grip in an uncomfortable place" - it does look like that to me too - see replay at 1:22 - looks like there's a bit of a bollock-squeeze and you actually see Hask wince a bit before reacting.

If that is the reason, I think that's enough provocation reason to exonerate Haskell. As someone wrote on here a few weeks ago, there are some moments in a game of rugby where you should have the right to punch someone in the face and I would say that bag-snatching definitely fits in that category.

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Dan May 02, 2012 10:22 pm

Agree entirely. I think the Ref should have shown him the red, then it should have been lowered as a result of mitigating factors. Looked to me as if he was getting a little squeeze down there - a couple of good punches to the face is about right. Sadly though Haskell played right into Downey's hand (so to speak) and got himself sin-binned.

Should have been reduced, particularly given his clean record to date.

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cheis May 01, 2012 12:12 pm

Red card

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Rugbydump May 01, 2012 12:20 pm

This post was written yesterday, before the hearing. It's now been updated to include the three-match suspension info. Apologies for the confusion.

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SamTheHammerHopkins May 01, 2012 1:10 pm

Second punch was an absolute beauty.

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thamesrowingclub May 01, 2012 3:40 pm

Downey was holding on after the scrum. What is Haskell supposed to do? This holding stuff is where the cheating and bad sportsmanship is, not some guy trying to get on playing the game. What recourse does a player have when the opposition is holding onto them away from the ball? Ref's don't typically stop play because a player is being held away from play. Downey's actions are worse than Haskell's.

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katman May 02, 2012 12:28 pm

Holding on is worse than two solid punches to the face? I hope you’re not teaching your boys how to play the game.

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Scarlet Beast May 02, 2012 4:07 pm

You should stick to rowing if thats the way you think.
Oh and don´t watch any Crusader or All Black games if you don´t like ¨cheating¨ flankers.

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Flanker Joe May 01, 2012 5:25 pm

Downey got all he deserved there, being held back at a scrum is one of the most frustrating things, but if Haskell was being held by his 'special area' then he has every right to belt Downey in my opinion (a slightly biased one as i play back row and hate cowardly holding)

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Pretzel May 01, 2012 6:12 pm

As I have said time and time again, the fact there is a citing and subsequent ban surely shows that the governing body does NOT agree with the referee decision.... How can something be deemed a 3 match ban in one hand but only get a 10 minute sit down on the other?!?! There is no consistency between the referee's AND the governing bodies...

Stroudos said above that the referee may have caused Haskell further punishment..

With the first punch I'd have been fine with the yellow, but then it was 2nd just made it 2 cheap shots...So I'd have been fine with the red...

Haskell is a tool imo, so this isn't surprising..

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Canadian content May 01, 2012 11:21 pm

What's he supposed to do?

A) hit his arms to make him release you

B) hit the body at least, head strikes like that could break a guys jaw or orbital

C) do nothing

Straight red, possible injury there

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thamesrowingclub May 02, 2012 12:13 am

D) Sort out a cheater that needs to be taught a lesson

E) Let a coward prevent you from playing rugby in a competitive/professional situation

F) Get dominated and not stand up for yourself

If I'm holding on to the other flanker at a scrum I deserve to be punched in the face until I let go. Cheaters need to think twice.

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smasher May 03, 2012 11:05 am

missed a pun there - should have put "cheetahs" rather than cheaters

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10stonenumber10 May 02, 2012 8:18 am

Again, he should be cited on the actions, not the outcome. He landed two punches, yellow whether the guy went off for a blood bin or not (after the 2nd punch i'm not surprised, rocked him back nicely). But in what looked like a niggly game, he's not going to shake your hand for holding on is he?

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Dazza May 02, 2012 12:38 pm

Got to say, they looked like a couple of decent hits! Could Haskell be in with a shout for SA tour now Croft is out.

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stroudos May 07, 2012 10:01 pm

I think Haskell should go to SA, but as a utility back row impact player. Croft's injury is a massive shame, just when he was hitting some really great form at the Six Nations too.

If I were Lancaster, this would be my starting back row:
6 - Robshaw
7 - Armitage
8 - Morgan

Haskell can do a decent job in any of those positions, but I would argue the names above are better options for each specific role. Should definitely be involved in some capacity IMO.

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Inconsistancies May 02, 2012 2:12 pm

I have no problem with the punishment handed out in isolation. Had it been more that could be justified, had it been less that could be too. But when a player (Butch James) gets a 4 match ban for charging into a ruck surely 2 punches to the face should get more than that. The reason Butch was banned was he recklessly entered the contest which may have endangered his opponent whereas Haskell purposefully intended to cause injury to his opponent off the ball. I am not saying Butch was dealt with too harshly or that Haskell was dealt with to leniently but where the hell is the consistency?

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MattyP May 03, 2012 1:05 pm

Short answer - Butch has some form with shoulder charging.

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Scarlet Beast May 02, 2012 4:24 pm

He is English don´t judge him to harshly. That will propably be the only thing he does in his career that gets mentioned.

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UlsterRugby199992012 May 02, 2012 9:51 pm

When are referees and linesmen going to clamp down on holding at rucks/mauls and scrums!! It is getting ridiculous and a good right hand willoften ensure it wont happen again!

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RichardFlanker7 May 08, 2012 1:52 pm

I play flanker and I am fed up with people who cheat and hold onto players who are breaking away from the scrum or ruck. The person holding should be punished by a yellow card as well!!!

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