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Every red card from this weekend's Heineken Champions Cup

By Stefan Frost
Ollie Chessum is sent off for a high tackle /PA

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A few years ago, red cards were a rare sight. Flash forwards to this weekend and there have been five red cards dished out across eight Heineken Champions Cup ties. Not all the teams that dropped to 14 men ended up losing their tie, but the impact of losing a player is always hard felt.

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Below RugbyPass takes a closer look at each of the four incidents.

Arron Reed, Bristol Bears v Sale Sharks
This all-English affair could have hinged entirely around a red card administered in the first half when Sale were 10-3 ahead. Fortunately for the Sharks, Arron Reed’s dismissal did not result in their demise.

As Bristol winger Luke Morahan found space down the right flank, he was hunted down by Reed. The Sale winger made the hit on his opposite man but ascended in the tackle, making contact with Morahan’s head. There was no question about whether the tackle made was a legal one and Reed was soon sent off.

Maama Vaipulu, La Rochelle v Bordeaux Bègles
This was a real moment of madness. With just 25 minutes on the clock, Bordeaux’s Maama Vaipulu was red carded for shoulder charging.

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La Rochelle already had the advantage on the scoresheet, after comprehensively beating their French compatriots 31-13 last weekend. The score was evenly poised at 3-3 in the second leg when Vaipulu, not unfamiliar to illegal on field conduct, decided to drive his shoulder into Jonathan Danty’s face.

The tackle made little sense, as Danty was running a support line for flyhalf Ihaia West, who had broken through the defensive line into space. At no point in the move did the French centre have the ball in hand, but this did not stop Vaipulu from making the hit.

After a quick TMO referral, referee Wayne Barnes reached into his pocket and pulled out a red for the number eight. Incidentally, this was not the first time Vaipulu has been sent off in the Champions Cup.

Ollie Chessum, Leicester Tigers v Clermont Auvergne
The Tigers were in the driving seat for most of this tie but still did not escape the referee’s book. The Englishmen were leading 22-10 with less than 20 minutes left, when Ollie Chessum was removed from the field for a high tackle on Samuel Ezeala, who had only just been subbed on.

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Chessum is six foot seven and that height negatively impacted him on this occasion, as he failed to get low enough when making the hit. Instead of tackling Ezeala below shoulder height, the young flanker caught the winger in the face and was given a red for the infringement.

Tom O’Toole, Ulster v Toulouse
Ulster were 15 minutes away from progressing to the quarter finals, leading the reigning European Champions Toulouse by three points on aggregate, when disaster struck.

Anthony Jelonch was leaning over, bracing for a tackle when carrying the ball into contact. Replacement prop Tom O’Toole remained upright and, as he tried to wrap Jelonch, made contact with the French flanker’s head. As shoulder hit head, hopes of a third Irish side reaching the next round fell apart.

The lowered body position of Jelonch was a mitigating factor in the tackle, but was not enough to prevent O’Toole from receiving a red card. Ulster then went on to lose the tie after dropping to 14 men.

Sefa Naivalu, Racing 92 v Stade Francais
Stade Francais were always the underdogs in this match up but with 34 minutes played in the second leg, they found themselves leading 15-6. Excitement quickly turned to shock when Teddy Thomas broke down the right and offloaded to Louis Dupichot. The Racing fullback looked set to score until Sefa Naivalu came in from the side with a no-arms tackle.

Naivalu’s inability to wrap meant he was red carded, while Dupichot was subbed off after being injured in the tackle. Racing were awarded a penalty try as well, making matters worse for the men in pink who quickly lost control of the tie.

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