ADVERTISEMENT
RugbyDump
REGISTER
LOGIN
ADVERTISEMENT
RugbyDump
Tuesday May 19, 2020

Looking back at that unbelievable attack on Ronan O’Gara, on a 'bad day for rugby'

Very few punishments have created such a divide in opinion as Joe Marler’s ten-week ban handed to him in March. The England prop was at the centre of a lot of controversy during the Six Nations when he crossed the line with his buffoonery and made his now-infamous grab of Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones’ genitals during play at Twickenham.

ADVERTISEMENT

The reaction ranged from calls for a lifetime ban to dismissing it as a non-event, so the subsequent ban also proved to be contentious.

This was only made worse by the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has meant he will not actually miss a game, as the suspension from the virus came into place the week he was banned, and will likely extend beyond the ban’s ending on June 7th.

While these are unforeseen circumstances that have fortuitously worked out for Marler, it is certainly not the first time that this has happened.

One such ban came after one of the most ill-tempered games in the modern era; the British and Irish Lions’ contest with the New South Waratahs on June 23rd, 2001.

The match had not even passed five seconds before Waratahs lock Tom Bowman saw yellow for an elbow to Danny Grewcock, which ultimately set the tone for what Lions coach Graham Henry called a “bad day for rugby”.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Bowman’s antic’s at the Sydney Football Ground paled into insignificance compared to what his teammate Duncan McRae was about to unleash upon Ronan O’Gara in the second half.

Following the Irishman’s clearout of the fullback at a ruck, he was subject to an onslaught of eleven punches to the face while he lay defenceless on the floor. The referee Scott Young and the touch judge effectively had front row to this assault, making the decision to brandish the red card an easy one.

The claret-faced flyhalf was ushered from the field with a swollen left eye and a gash underneath which required eight stitches.

The image of the Munsterman’s mutilated face has been consigned to Lions folklore, and at the time led to accusations of a plot to provoke the tourists ahead of the first Test against the Wallabies a week later.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Australian has since claimed that there had been a continuous back-and-forth between him and O’Gara throughout the match, and what he believed to be a swinging arm had incensed him. However, that does not come close to justifying what he did.

The Lions went on to win 41-24 in a match that had at one point three Waratahs players off the field and two more of the tourists in the sin bin as well.

McRae was handed a seven-week ban, something that did not sit well with his victim, who thought that was too lenient. The player’s remorse and public apology, although never personal, were factors in the ban’s length, as well as his previous good character- even Richard Hill, who was formerly a teammate of McRae’s at Saracens but was his opponent on this occasion, described this as out of character.

But with the Super Rugby season already over, this ban meant the Waratahs player never missed a game in blue, and was ready to line up against the Chiefs in the first game of the 2002 season, which may have embittered some all the more.

When comparing this to Marler’s ban 19 years later, the evolution of the game is undeniably illuminated. There is no escape from cameras these days, and with longer bans a violent salvo as seen in 2001 is seldom, if ever, seen in the professional game today. Further still, a seven-week ban would be met with far more dismay than it was at the beginning of the century.

For better or for worse, the rise of social media has meant that players are scrutinised on a level that would have been unimaginable just over a decade ago. Reflecting on the incident in 2012 with the Sydney Morning Herald, McRae said how fortunate he was that it was in another era. He said: “I’m lucky there was no Twitter back then. I reckon I would have copped a lot of abuse.”

Conversely, O’Gara vexed after the match at the lack of censure directed at McRae, saying to the Guardian: “If we’d done what McRae did, I’m quite sure what the headlines would be in Australia. If the shoe was on the other foot we would be reading about it for the next 12 years.”

While it is dangerous territory to compare transgressions and punishments from a different time, this match in 2001 shows how much the game has changed.

Related Articles

  • 27 WEEKS AGO

    Five minutes of brutal Kwagga Smith aggression...

  • 27 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Unnecessary tackle on Lawes sees yellow...

  • 27 WEEKS AGO

    These could be rugby's most blatant red card...



ADVERTISEMENT

Great Tries

  • 6 DAYS AGO

    Watch: Blues score two STUNNING tries against Queensland Reds

  • 3 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Racing 92 know how play ‘GORGEOUS’ rugby

  • 4 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Teddy Thomas rinses defence with BLISTERING pace

  • 5 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Every Ulster try scored in Europe this season..and it’s glorious!

  • 6 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Fijian Drua show RIDICULOUS skillset and can score from anywhere

View All

Big Hits & Dirty Play

  • 23 HOURS AGO

    WATCH: Big Rugby Collision In South African Schools Match

  • 2 DAYS AGO

    WATCH: Sickening Shot Leaves Motionless

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Hardest hit of all time

  • 3 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Duhan Van der Merwe makes INCREDIBLE try saving tackle

  • 4 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Fans not happy with another ‘appalling’ red card tackle in Super Rugby

View All

See It To Believe It

  • 4 DAYS AGO

    Hooker scores masterful try

  • 6 DAYS AGO

    Tadhg Furlong produces one of the best ever passes by a forward

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Hardest hit of all time

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Leicester Tigers respond to hilarious fan incident

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Thrilling clash between Munster and Toulouse settled by a place kick shootout

View All

Funnies

  • 1 DAY AGO

    WATCH: First It Was BoJo Now It's ScoMo

  • 3 WEEKS AGO

    Dad and 7 sons in Ireland forward pack

  • 4 WEEKS AGO

    Shocking mistake by Brumbies fullback prevents a certain try

  • 4 WEEKS AGO

    Ellis Genge hits back at Brian Moore

  • 4 WEEKS AGO

    Rugby was too violent, says UFC legend

View All

Amateur

  • 3 WEEKS AGO

    Watch: Epic Speech Epitomises Rugby Values

  • 6 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Epic touchline conversion from Tighthead seals the deal

  • 13 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Veteran props compared to Tadhg Furlong in new viral video

  • 81 WEEKS AGO

    Viral video of Scottish club brawl goes down a storm with rugby community

  • 118 WEEKS AGO

    RUGBYDUMP BLITZ: This Best of the Week round up is sure to entertain you

View All

Player Features

  • 2 DAYS AGO

    Harlequins full-back to leave at the end of the season

  • 3 DAYS AGO

    Fans shocked after some huge recalls in the England squad

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Huge opportunity for young prodigy

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    All Black World Cup winners teaming up in the USA

  • 3 WEEKS AGO

    Tom Dunn drops bombshell after Bath humiliation this weekend

View All