Ofa Tuungafasi free to play against Chiefs, escapes ban for reckless ruck clear-out
Despite Blues replacement Ofa Tuungafasi’s shoulder connecting with Scott Barrett’s jaw in the dying stages of Saturday’s top of the table Super Rugby Aotearoa match, no further sanction has been imposed on the prop for the reckless clear-out beyond the on-field yellow card.
The decision will come as a huge relief for Tuungafasi, who missed the latter stages of the All Blacks‘ Tri-Nations campaign last year after he was sent off and handed a three-match ban for a reckless tackle against the Wallabies.
A second red card-worthy offence committed in just his third game back would have no doubt resulted in a significant ban.
The sin-binning against the Crusaders occurred in the 75th minute of the match, with Tuungafasi heading into the breakdown to clear out Barrett but accidentally connecting with the lock’s jaw before dealing the full impact to his shoulder.
Referee Paul Williams settled on what would have been a 10-minute spell on the sidelines, indicating that the ‘glancing’ hit on Barrett’s jaw brought the offence down from a red card to yellow.
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Still, SANZAAR cited Tuungafasi after the match – alongside hooker Kurt Eklund.
Eklund has been handed a three-match ban for his wrestling flip on Sevu Reece but at least, for the Blues’ sake, his front row partner won’t have to sit out any matches.
Following Sunday’s match, Blues coach Leon MacDonald was asked whether he was frustrated at his side’s lack of discipline, especially with regards to dangerous play.
“Without having a closer look, I thought it looked ok from where I was – but I do need to have another look at it,” he responded.
“It’s a tough one because it happens pretty quickly. The intent was there to clean [Barrett] off the ball, which is is his job … There wasn’t much in it at all, I think.
“What you don’t want to do is coach the intent out of our players. We want them to play with good aggression and be nice and physical and if they’re too scared to make tackles or clean rucks, then we become passive and we lose games. So it’s a really fine line and I think Ofa was right on that edge.”
In a statement released on the hearing, the Judicial Committee concluded it was “not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the red card threshold had been met” and that a yellow card was an appropriate sanction for Tuungafasi’s clear-out.
That means the All Blacks prop will be free to line up against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday evening.
Satuday’s match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT with the Chiefs chasing their second win of the season and the Blues looking to bounce back from Sunday’s loss.
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