Brive slipped to a narrow 18-11 defeat away to Toulouse in the Top 14 last weekend, a match marred by an unfortunate incident which resulted in fly-half Enzo Hervé being red carded.
Both sides were evenly matched during the game, with the scores 12-11 in favour of hosts Toulouse entering the final 15 minutes, when Hervé was dismissed for kicking the head of an opponent on the ground.
Toulouse had been attacking with ball in hand, when an unlucky sequence of events then took place, after winger Lucas Tauzin’s offload to scrum-half Baptiste Germain.
The loose ball bobbled before being secured by Germain on the floor, but Hervé had committed to hacking the ball forward in an attempt to counter.
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In trying to kick the ball, Hervé’s boot caught Germain’s head as the latter snaffled the ball back into his grasp.
World Rugby’s law application guidelines state that head contact with another player warrants a red card when the danger level is high and there is no mitigation involved, and while there may have been a case for mitigation in that the ball moved position by the time Hervé committed to kicking, neither the player nor Brive captain Matthieu Voisin had any complaints about the decision.
Referee Laurent Cardona accepted that Hervé showed no malicious intent and appeared to sympathise with the player.
He said: “Sure, the action was not deliberate but you took the risk of kicking the ball, and in this risk you collected the head of the player on the ground. So, in this situation I have no other option but to give you a red card.”
Kicking a loose ball is such a common element of the game that it’s little wonder these incidents of head contact are not seen more often. Indeed, there are few similar incidents to draw from when it comes to determining what sort of punishment Hervé is likely to receive.
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Back in 2010, Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery got away with something similar against Alexis Palisson in a Six Nations match versus France. In that instance, few were convinced that Flannery was making a genuine attempt at kicking the ball, however.