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Chiefs prop Reuben O'Niell cops ban for 'physical abuse'

By Ben Smith
Reuben O'Neill of the Chiefs (C) and his team mates look on during the round six Super Rugby Pacific match between the Crusaders and Chiefs at Apollo Projects Stadium, on March 29, 2024, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Chiefs tighthead Reuben O’Neill has been found guilty and charged with “physical abuse” by the SANZAAR judiciary, leading to a three-week suspension.

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O’Neill caught a Rebels player high with a swinging arm in the process of a clean out in the 61st minute against Melbourne, which was deemed had met the red card threshold.

The prop was charged by the committee under Law 9.12, which states “a player must not physically abuse anyone” for the infringement.

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Committee chair Helen Morgan said:

“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including submissions by the player and the Player’s representative, Aaron Lloyd, the Judicial Committee upheld the Citing and found the player to have contravened Law 9.12.”

“The judicial committee assessed the actions, being reckless foul play by the player by striking an opponent’s head with his arm.”

An early guilty plea by O’Neill, mitigating factors and good disciplinary record halved the suspension from six to three weeks, meaning the Taranaki prop should be available for the second week of the playoffs if the Chiefs are still alive.

His absence will be felt as the Chiefs face the two strongest teams in the competition, the Hurricanes and the Blues, over the last two weeks of the regular season.

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