Bath boss Stuart Hooper was left flummoxed that last Sunday’s red card for Beno Obano at Wasps was deemed a top-end offence, resulting in the England prop receiving a five-game ban that will rule out of a possible European Challenge Cup final appearance should his club defeat Montpellier in this Saturday’s semi-final. 

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The pattern for red-carded dangerous tackles in the Gallagher Premiership has usually been a mid-range entry point where players are given a six-week ban that is then reduced to just three weeks after 50 per cent mitigation is applied.   

However, because Wasps’ Ben Morris wound up with a broken nose, the high tackle executed by Obano was deemed to be more serious offebnce and it left him facing a potential ten-week ban before the 50 per cent reduction was applied. 

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As it stands, Obano, who accepted the dangerous tackling charge at his RFU hearing, will only be available to Bath by June 8 at the latest (it will be a week earlier if Bath don’t qualify for the European final) following the 73rd-minute red card given at the Ricoh by referee Ian Tempest.

This outcome has left Bath coach Hooper perplexed. While on the one hand, he is fully supportive of the way rugby is now clamping down on bad tackles to the head, he was left dissatisfied over how the Obano collision was graded at the disciplinary hearing and left him to suffer a longer suspension than anticipated. 

“I’m disappointed where it has ended up,” said Hooper on Wednesday afternoon when he fronted media ahead of this weekend’s cup semi-final. “I find it very confusing if I am honest. Of course, the welfare of the players is very important but the tackle that Beno went to make, as he said in his judgment, is that he got it too high. 

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“It was too high. The movement of the other player had an impact as well in that but he goes to wrap his arms, he does wrap his arms. He makes contact with the chest area and unfortunately they hit head-on-head. Sometimes we see those given in inverted commas as ‘rugby incidents’ and other times we don’t. It’s disappointing. I need to seek a bit of clarification as to what has happened.

“Evidently there is a framework in place at the moment and it has been put in place to bring about a change in behaviour, but we just need to be very careful about the sanctions that are given and why they are given. 

“I need clarification because what I have here is a young man who is in the prime of his career and he wants to be pushing on and playing in big games at the club. Of course, we want him to be playing as well. That has now been taken away and we just need to look and make sure of everything and we are clear on why it has happened.”

Asked would Bath appeal the five-game ban for Obano, Hooper continued: “I’m not at that stage yet. I have been out on the training field and the judgment has come through. My reaction is something that is immediate and I need to understand the details of how they got to that point and the process that gets us there because I don’t see it being in line with other sanctions that have been given.”

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The bottom line is that Hooper has been left with a player who has seen his hopes of playing at the business end of the season in May go up in smoke. “He is devastated,” relayed Hooper. “He was devastated when he came off the field because of what it meant for the team and since then he has been nothing but contrite. 

“He completely understands that the tackle he made was too high. In the moment with the opposition player, they clashed heads but he has been nothing but apologetic and contrite and so he is gutted.

“I need to gather my thoughts. One thing we absolutely have got right is that the safety of the players is paramount. That should not be clouded in any way. But the process and the understanding, not only do I need to understand it but everybody we want to watch the game, enjoy the game and attract to the game needs to understand it as well.”

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