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Jonny Hill's baiting of Darcy Swain: 'That's attacking the head of a player'

By Stefan Frost
Jonny Hill pushed Darcy Swain in the face minutes before pulling his hair.

Jonny Hill evading sanction for pushing opposition lock Darcy Swain in the face, minutes before the latter saw red in Australia’s tight series opening win against England in Perth, is the talk of social media.

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The England second row was seen pushing Swain square in the face, right under the nose of the referee, but received no penalty for his action.

The afters between the two continued deep into the first half and culminated in Hill pulling Swain’s hair, for which he received a yellow card, and the Australian retaliating by headbutting his aggressor which duly earnt him a red.

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Post-match press conference with England head coach Eddie Jones and captain Courtney Lawes following their 30-28 loss to Australia.
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Post-match press conference with England head coach Eddie Jones and captain Courtney Lawes following their 30-28 loss to Australia.

“That’s attacking the head of another player with both hands,” said former Wallabies lock Justin Harrison on Stan Sport in Australia. “I’d be very surprised if the independent citing commissioner didn’t have a look at this game and want to have a closer look at that one.

The fallout of the incident has set social media alight and led Pat McCarry, the rugby editor of SportsJOE, to muse on Twitter: “Jonny Hill should be on a red and a yellow by now…”

PA journalist Andrew Baldock wrote that there is a strong precedent to cite the English lock: “Wouldn’t be surprised if Jonny Hill is cited. Agustin Creevy and Chris Ashton both banned for hair-pulling. Creevy on Eben Etzebeth, which can’t have been the brightest move.”

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Jared Wright took a less severe approach to the incident, suggesting that Swain should have kept a lid on things.

“Darcy Swain will learn from this test. Jonny Hill targeted him and got him to react. Got to keep your cool.”

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Rugby writer Will Owen took a more comical approach to proceedings, posting: “Never seen anyone enjoy getting yellow carded as much as Jonny Hill there. Fair play.”

Former England second row Ben Kay and Australia great Matt Giteau had differing interpretations of the hairpulling and headbutting during the game, but afterwards Giteau conceded that the red was justified.

Popular account Rugby Inside Line chimed in by predicting that Hill will be subsequently sanctioned for his actions which warranted a red.

“There is a case for Jonny Hill to be red carded though. Chris Ashton handed a four week ban for pulling Alesana Tuilagi’s hair in 2011. The longer the hair; the more severe the penalty?”

“I’m not sure if it was a team plan but certainly there was provocation there,” Wallahies head coach Dave Rennie said post-match about the incident.

“Not just in that situation but earlier in the game so we’ll have a decent look at the footage and and work out how we’re going to appeal that.

“If it’s a head-butt it’s clearly a red card but I’m not sure it was his intent to head-butt but we will look at the footage and get clarity around whether we think there’s an opportunity to challenge.”

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