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High shot on de Klerk results in red card and likely semi-final ban for Exeter's Skinner

By Liam Heagney

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Referee Karl Dickson and TMO Clare Hodnett were extremely busy on Saturday at Sandy Park, their decisions resulting in a second-half red card for Sam Skinner of Exeter for his high shot on Sale’s Faf de Klerk and a first-half yellow card – downgraded from a red – for Dave Ewers for his high shot on Simon Hammersley.   

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There were 53 minutes gone when Scotland international Skinner was sent off with Sale leading 19-3 and five metres out from the Exeter line in search of their fourth try of the match. Referee Dickson had no hesitation in brandishing the red card after consulting with Hodnett and reviewing the footage of the foul play.   

“It’s direct contact to the head,” said Hodnett, who added she felt that de Klerk had fallen into the contact and wasn’t bolt upright when Skinner’s shoulder connected with his head. Dickson, though, replied: “There is a high degree of danger because he is high going into the tackle and it is at high force and there is a forearm,” agreed the referee.

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“We have got direct contact with the head. It’s with high force, there is a high degree of danger and I’m actually not seeing any mitigation at this point because Faf is at the same height he would have been if he was running normally and the player has not done enough to get low.”

Calling over Skinner, Dickson told the offending player: “So we have got direct contact to the head. It’s a high degree of force and there is no mitigation, so it is going to be a red card.”

Dickson’s speed in reaching this decision was in contrast with the lengthy review that took place in the 34th minute when Ewers’ shoulder crashed into Hammersley’s head. The deliberations started with a suggested red card but the referee revised that opinion down to yellow after considering the footage from a variety of angles. “We have shoulder to the head, we have got a high degree of danger, (but) we have got to discuss mitigation,” said Dickson.

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“The only thing we have got to consider here is the fact that the player is being tackled and spinning out of the tackle as the (second) tackler is coming across. For me, that is the only part that I can see for mitigation, so that is what would bring it from red down to yellow because of the spin in the tackle and the change in direction of the ball carrier.”

With Skinner sent off, the scene was seemingly set for Sale to go on and record the bonus-point win that would have lifted them into second on the table ahead of Exeter and resulted in the Chiefs having to visit the AJ Bell for next weekend’s semi-final. However, the red card instead inspired an incredible Exeter comeback as they defiantly fought back to win 20-19, ten points coming their way after Ben Curry was yellow carded.

Sale’s misery was then compounded by impressive out-half AJ MacGinty getting stretchered off with the knee injury that will likely rule him out of next Saturday’s semi-final rematch between the teams at Sandy Park.

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High shot on de Klerk results in red card and likely semi-final ban for Exeter's Skinner

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