Eleven weeks worth of suspensions have been handed down following last weekend’s red cards in the Gallagher Premiership, Harlequins centre Andre Esterhuizen receiving a six-week ban and Bath prop Beno Obano banned for five weeks. 


Springboks midfielder Esterhuizen was shown a red card by referee Matthew Carley in the 48th minute last Saturday versus London Irish for striking with the elbow. He contested the charge but it was upheld by the independent disciplinary panel comprising Jeremy Summers (chair) with Rob Vickerman and Becky Essex.

In evidence, Esterhuizen claimed he had walked over to assist a teammate involved in the scuffle. Irish’s Curtis Rona then “had a go” and they had both grabbed jerseys. Esterhuizen gave Rona a small push and then another push. He had not intended to strike Rona and it was just a push. Contact was low level and was with the forearm not the elbow, Esterhuizen further asserting that his arm had been raised because Rona had raised his arm under him. 

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RFU legal counsel Angus Hetherington rejected Esterhuizen’s submission, asserting that the incident was clearly a strike and noting video footage to illustrate that Rona had not raised his arm as alleged and that the referee had been correct to send the South African off.

The panel unanimously found that Esterhuizen has intentionally struck Rona with his right forearm in the face and that the red card decision was correct. He will now miss a half-dozen matches, the five remaining regular-season games that Harlequins have and potentially a semi-final if they progress.



England prop Obano, meanwhile, was shown a red card by referee Ian Tempest in the 73rd minute of Bath’s defeat at Wasps on Sunday for dangerous tackling. He accepted the charge and will be free to play again on June 8 at the latest. His suspension starts with this Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final versus Montpellier. He will miss the final if his team progresses.  

In evidence, Obano said he had expected Ben Morris to step inside him and he had shaped for that contact. Morris then took an outside line and this had led to Obano being in the wrong position. He accepted he had gone too high and that his actions had warranted a red card.

The panel opted for a ten-week top-end starting point, explaining: ‘The injury sustained by W6 was a significant feature, distinguishing this case from other similar incidents of dangerous tackles that have come before RFU panels this season and was such as to require a top-end entry point.” Full mitigation of 50 per cent was then applied, bringing the ban down to five weeks.  


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