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Tongan Eddie Aholelei punches Jebb Sinclair after fight with Canada

BY Grant Constable  ·  Wednesday Jun 12, 2013

Three Tongan players have been suspended following a fractious Pacific Nations Cup match against Canada at the weekend. Canada won the game, but it has been marred by incident, and the Tongan coach has since claimed that officials appear racist.

A fight broke out in the first half after something happened at the bottom of a ruck between Tongan centre Siale Piutau and Canadian hooker Ray Barkwill, with Nathan Hirayama getting involved.

Just as calm had been restored, Tongan prop Eddie Aholelei threw a punch to the face of Jebb Sinclair, decking him directly in front of the referee. Aholelei, who was given time off from the Melbourne Rebels to take part in the tournament, was red carded and referee JP Doyle.

In the disciplinary hearing 31-year-old father of five Aholelei admitted his guilt but said that he saw what he perceived to be a headbutt by Sinclair on his teammate. He was retaliating to that.

There were also two incidents in the second half, which resulted in yellow cards. One was an off the ball high shot, while the other was an incredibly dangerous looking late and high tackle.

After the match Tongan coach Man Otai accused match officials of treating his players unfairly because they are black. “I had a look at both (yellow cards). I couldn’t really see why.

“It’s almost like, these days you know, when a black man is tackling harder than the other, it seems to be the way,” Otai told Canadian Press.

When asked if he thought his side were being singled out, Otai said: “Absolutely. It’s a perception a lot of times. And I think some of the foreigners that are involved in our team now are starting to see that. It’s just hard to battle or fight that stereotype, I guess.

“But I’m not taking away the fact that at times we do, I guess, make mistakes in terms of tackling — if I’m talking in general. But in today’s game, I couldn’t justify the two yellow cards.”

Canadian winger Matt Evans was carried off the field on a stretcher after the David Halaifonua tackle knocked him out cold, while James Pritchard needed medical treatment before continuing.

Halaifonua has been suspended for six weeks for his tackle, while Piutau – who was deemed to have started the fight with punches on the Canadian hooker – and Aholelei have both been given three week suspensions for striking.

You can view full reports from the disciplinary hearings using the links below. They make for interesting reading, including quotes from the players and the reasons for their actions.

David Halaifonua report  | Siale Piutau report  | Edmund Aholelei report

View the high tackles | View match highlights

Above is a look at two of the high tackles the resulted in yellow cards during the Canada vs Tonga Pacific Nations Cup match in Kingston, Ontario. The second, and most dangerous of the two, was made by David Halaifonua.

He appeared before independent Judicial Officer, Alan Hudson, having been cited by David Pelton in contravention of Law 10.4(e). Halaifonua wished to contest the offence. The Judicial Officer, having heard all the evidence, determined that the action was reckless and not premeditated.

Given that the tackled Canada player was forced to leave the field of play through injury, the Judicial Officer determined that the offence should merit the top end entry point level for the sanction which is 10+ weeks.

Having also considered mitigating factors, including remorse and excellent record, the suspension was set at six weeks. The player may resume playing on July 21, 2013.

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