Bristol’s bid to beat the Premiership drop has been dented by the four-week suspension of one of their main attacking threats.
Alapati Leiua has scored a half-dozen tries in his nine league starts this season. However, the Samoan will now miss their March fixtures against Gloucester, Northampton and Worcester, as well as the Challenge Cup away quarter-final at La Rochelle.
The Samoan had contested his citing from the February 16 loss at Harlequins, claiming he has simply mistimed his fending off of Marcus Smith with his arm.
However he failed to convince an independent disciplinary panel of his innocence at a Wednesday night hearing and has been left to stew on the sidelines until April 2.
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He was cited by independent citing commissioner Paul Burke following the match Harlequins v Bristol Bears on Saturday 16 February 2019. This was for striking Harlequins’ Marcus Smith with the arm contrary to Law 9.12. The incident occurred in the first half of the match.
Leiua contested the charge but was given a four-week suspension by the panel comprising Gareth Graham (chair), John Doubleday and Nick Dark. He is free to play again 2 April 2019.
Panel chair Gareth Graham said: “As the player carried the ball into the tackle, he led with his forearm and struck Marcus Smith, the tackler, to the side of the head. The panel accepted the player’s evidence that he had mistimed an attempt to fend off the tackler and had not intended to strike the Harlequins player.
?| @alapatz appeared before an independent disciplinary panel on Wednesday evening and has been suspended for 4? weeks.
Read the full story. ??
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) February 28, 2019
“However, the panel found that by leading with his forearm into the tackle, where the forearm then made contact to the tackler’s head, the player had committed a reckless act of foul play that passed the red card threshold. The panel upheld the citing.
“For an offence of striking with an arm which results in contact with the head, there is a mandatory mid-range entry point of a six-week ban. The panel found that the player had a good disciplinary record and was remorseful and was entitled to a reduction of two-weeks by way of mitigation.”
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