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'My players are not safe': Ex-All Black at the centre of high shot controversy

By Sam Smith
(Source/URC TV)

Former All Black Vaea Fifita was at the centre of controversy in the Scarlets 32-15 loss to the Lions in South Africa after copping a high shot across the face that left him with a bloody nose.

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The Scarlets lock was forced from the field in the 45th minute after taking a swinging arm from Lions loose forward Darrien Landsberg, which wasn’t deemed worthy of a card by referee Ben Blain.

Fifita had braced himself for contact for a defender going low, cocking his forearm and raising his knee to bump off the first defender, but his low angle put him in the firing line of a swinging arm from Landsberg.

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The former All Black, who now represents Tonga, took most of the contact from the arm across the face and nose. Play was stopped immediately as Fifita didn’t move on the ground and medics rushed to his attention.

But Welsh test international and British & Irish Lion Jonathan Davies, a veteran of 99 Tests, was left in frustration after seeing Fifita fouled and pleaded with the referee to review the tackle.

Protests over contact to the head fell on deaf ears as Blain responded to Davies: “There can be contact to the head and not be foul play, not all contact to the head is foul play.”

Lions players also protested the incident: “Is he allowed to lead with his knee? When he carries, he can’t lead with his knee.”

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Earlier in the game the Scarlets’ flyhalf Sam Costelow had been yellow carded for a tackle around the neck area of Lions scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba.

The two incidents left Davies incensed enough to approach the Scottish ref at full-time to discuss the rulings which he called ‘not fair’ and questioned Blain over player safety.

“A guy gets his nose across his face,” Davies is heard saying.

“My players are not safe when there are shots like that.

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“Our 10 got sin-binned — right, a little hit on the side of the neck like that.

“Our guy’s nose across his face. The safety of my players is at risk.

“It’s not fair. It’s not fair.”

The Lions never looked like losing after a double from man-of-the-match No 8 Emmanuel Tshituka helped the home side to a healthy bonus point win.

Right winger Rabz Maxwane and Jaco Kriel also crossed over, with Maxwane coming up with the try of the match after turning Davies inside-out and outpacing Fifita on a winding run in the first half.

Scarlets picked up a late consolation try through Tongan international Sam Lousi, who crossed over from a pick and go close to the line, but it failed to prevent a fourth-straight URC loss for the Welsh outfit.

The Lions moved up into fifth on the United Rugby Championship ladder with the 32-15 win.

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