Wednesday, April 01, 2015
In a particularly brutal and controversy filled Super Rugby clash between the Sharks and the Chiefs, Francois Steyn was red-carded for an illegal tackle on fly-half Aaron Cruden. The rulings that followed have been quite puzzling to say the least.
Steyn was one of three players to be sent off during the ill-tempered affair, and subsequently also the third to receive a ban – however the circumstances are somewhat bizarre.
His teammate Bismarck du Plessis was dismissed from play having struck an opponent intentionally with his boot, he was cited and the review resulted in a four match suspension.
The process for Steyn's examination and reprimand didn't quite follow the same pattern however.
Having played a significant part in a dangerous tackle on Aaron Cruden, the South African's actions were extensively scrutinised by the TMO and referee during a lengthy stoppage, which included the TMO trying to dissuade the referee from taking too stringent a view.
Referee Angus Gardner went with his gut though, and Steyn was sent from the field.
As was the case with du Plessis, the body which operates Super Rugby, Sanzar, cited the Sharks player and were presented with a decision over whether his actions deserved a ban.
Officer Jannie Lubbe determined that Steyn, whilst involved with the tackle, was not directly responsible for the result and that the force of two teammates entering the contest resulted in Cruden's awkward landing.
Having been cleared of all wrongdoing, and his red card being rescinded, it appeared Steyn's case was over – however, in a somewhat curious twist, Sanzar appealed against their own ruling.
Following this turnaround, an official statement from SANZAR stated:
“The Appeals Committee unanimously upheld the appeal brought by Sanzar and found that Steyn breached Law 10.4 (j) and that the referee was correct to red card the player.”
Further to re-awarding Steyn with his previously repealed sending off, they also decided that the appropriate sanction would be four weeks, and taking into account the Sharks' bye in Round 11 banned Steyn for five weeks, saying he is unable to compete in any form of the sport up to and including the 3rd of May 2015.
Do you think the incident deserved the red-card and a ban?
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
The Aviva Premiership was back in action as Six Nations players returned, and there was plenty to talk about. View our highlights wrap on page two of this post, which includes some controversy and a record crowd at Wembley. Above, the Try of the Week contenders.
The five players who scored the best tries of round 18 are Christian Wade (he got a hat-trick), Will Chudley, Adam Powell, Chris Wyles and George North, who was knocked out for his second.
View the full Highlights Wrap (or below if arrived via social media)
Round 7 of Super Rugby brought with it less controversy than Round 6, which means there weren't three red cards in one half of action, for one. All in all there were more great tries scored, another big upset, and some brutal tackles. Oh, and one of the worst (best?) Falcons you're likely to see.
View more Shortball in our archived Plays of the Week section
Monday, March 30, 2015
Ulster number eight Nick Williams has been cited for striking Cardiff Blues back Rhys Patchell during their Guinness Pro12 match in Belfast on Friday. Williams was yellow carded, but many have been angered by the incident, feeling it should have been red.
Flyhalf Patchell spent the night in hospital after being carried off on a stretcher following treatment for 10 minutes from the forearm blow. He was treated amid fears of a bad concussion.
The massive New Zealander has since been cited for Law 10.4 (a) - Punching/striking. A player must not strike an opponent with the fist or arm, including the elbow, shoulder, head or knee.
Cardiff Blues coach Dale McIntosh said after that match that a red card was in order.
"A forearm to the head? It should be a red card. I've done it enough, I should know," he said.
Former Ireland centre Maurice Field said that while the result was severe, "It was not a forearm smash". He went on to tell BBC Northern Ireland that Williams had executed a reckless challenge.
"Patchell is unfortunate - full-backs do not usually find themselves in those ruck situations. Nick Williams is a physical guy, that is the nature of his game," he added.
Ulster went on to win the match 36-17. You can view the incident below in a quick clip from the highlights wrap. We'll have more from the Pro12 soon.
Should this have been a red card, or was it merely a clumsy effort at cleaning out a player?
Northampton Saints winger George North received another blow to the head that has resulted in concussion and more concern about his long term playing career. The incident happened as he scored in Saints' 52-30 victory over Wasps on Friday.
Last week that we highlighted the concern about repeated Leigh Halfpenny concussions, but this time it was Wales teammate North that was knocked out, albeit in entirely different circumstances.
He finished down the wing after some excellent play from Samu Manoa, but in the process was struck in the head by Wasps number eight Nathan Hughes. It looked entirely accidental, but the referee felt it was clumsy and could have been avoided, so showed Hughes a red card.
North was struck in the head twice in Wales' recent Six Nations clash with England, causing a controversy over the way that was handled.
On this occasion he was clearly in no state to continue, and left the field on a stretcher. He later tweeted that he was up and about, and according to coach Jim Mallinder, was at the club on Saturday to receive treatment and further monitoring.
World Rugby (IRB) concussion advisor Professor Willie Stewart said that 22-year-old North needs to be given an extended period of rest to figure out if this is something that he has just not recovered from, or whether there are genuine issues.
"I think he personally needs to say, 'No, I'm not playing again this season'. If he does play again too soon it could be the end of his World Cup or even his career," explained Stewart.
"The people looking after him, including Northampton and the Welsh Rugby Union, should be recommending some time out and the experts he is seeing should recommend some time out. No-one should be talking about playing him next week. That's just ridiculous.
"I know at this time of year we're getting into the thick of it for trophies and championships but it's also getting into the sharp end for George's brain. I would be surprised if he makes another appearance," he added.
As for the actual incident, Hughes seemed to ask the referee how he was expected to lift his leg up to avoid North in that situation. Saints coach Mallinder didn't have too much sympathy though. "The opposition have got to then be very careful once the try is scored and it was reckless coming in with the knee. Some serious consequences happened because of it" he said.
Wasps coach Dai Young, who had a miserable night at the office, said that the Hughes dismissal was harsh and that he certainly isn't a malicious player.
"I hope George is okay, Nathan has gone looking for him to make sure he is okay - he is not that type of person [who would injure someone deliberately]."
View a highlights wrap from the match, which includes North's first try
Hughes has been banned for three weeks. Disciplinary hearing details
photo: tony marshall/getty images europe
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Fiji cruised to Hong Kong Sevens victory as they beat defending champions New Zealand 33-19 in the Cup Final. They beat overall series leaders South Africa in the Semi Final. Also, Russia have now qualified as a core team for the 2015/2016 season.
Savenaca Rawaca ended the tournament as joint leading try scorer, alongside the USA's Zack Test, as his brace of tries in the final added to the six he scored over the course of the weekend.
It was former England coach Ben Ryan's first taste of victory at the iconic Hong Kong tournament, which was celebrating it's 40th anniversary.
"This victory is certainly up there," said Fiji's coach Ben Ryan "We are now pushing hard for top place, we're moving away from that Olympic qualification and it's great for the people back home as Hong Kong means so much to them. It's perhaps a monkey off my back as well so I am delighted."
Following victory, Fiji are now just two points behind leaders South Africa (110) in the overall series standings, with 108 points, and just one ahead of New Zealand (107), with Australia (84) and England (78) the others in the top five, as the race for Olympic qualification continues.
Russia qualify for 2015-16 World Series - Highlights
While the top teams played out main event in Hong Kong, 12 regional qualifiers battled it out for one ever-present core team place on next season's 2015/16 series, with Russia emerging victorious after beating Zimbabwe in the final thanks to a last-minute winning try from Vladimir Ostrouskho.
"This means a lot, it allows our players to play more valuable games and gain experience and the win will be a motivation for the younger players too," said captain Dmitriy Perov.
View highlights from Day 3 below, with the other two days play shown on the next page, including an upset victory by Portugal over New Zealand on day two!
Friday, March 27, 2015
Leigh Halfpenny was removed from the field of play on Saturday having taken a serious blow to the side of his head when tackling Italy's big Samuela Vunisa. It's not the first time this has happened, prompting some questions about technique.
Vunisa made a clean break from his own 22 following a line-out, and was allowed to continue to accelerate to full speed until he met the last line of defence, Leigh Halfpenny, on the halfway line.
The Welsh 15's tackle, whilst undoubtedly remarkably brave, was also extremely poor technique.
"The thing is at full-back, people are running straight for you so you do have to have a proper technique and I think it's shown on a few occasions that his technique is a little bit flawed," said former Wales captain Gareth Thomas in his BBC column.
"It's sad because he's getting injured from a bad technique. There's cause for concern there, just for one for his personal welfare, but also potentially missing tackles because he's putting his head in the wrong place all the time. I think maybe he's favouring one shoulder over another."
Halfpenny made contact from the side, while coaches would say that Halfpenny should have hit with his left shoulder and placed his head behind the attacking player, thereby using the Italian's momentum to bring him down.
However, Halfpenny used his right shoulder in the challenge and as a direct result his head was in front of Vunisa's legs. After the contact it was clear that Halfpenny was not in a good way.
The medical staff were quick to realise and withdrew the fullback from the match shortly before halftime. After the break it was confirmed that concussion protocols were to be carried out, and the talisman kicker would play no further part in the afternoon’s proceedings.
Somewhat worrying is that this is not the first occasion on which Halfpenny has caused himself damage from sub-par tackling practise. In last year's RBS Six Nations he made a try-saving tackle on English centre Luther Burrell which resulted in a dislocated shoulder for the Welshman, and his subsequent early departure from the tournament.
Although such tackles are immensely brave and highly effective, his tendency to get injured performing them has raised concern amongst fans and critics alike, as pundit Jonathan Davies said "He's brave as they come. He never shirks a tackle, but I'm slightly worried now at the amount of times I see him hit his head on the wrong side."
Any criticism of Halfpenny's technique stems only from a collective concern from the rugby community that he may do himself some permanent damage and cut short an already outstanding career. We hope to see him back on the pitch soon.
View it here if you're outside of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland & Italy