High tackles were at the centre of attention again in round eight of the Gallagher Premiership as cards were, or more importantly, were not handed out.

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This is a topic that will always be complicated, and there will never be universal agreement at decisions, but this past weekend was particularly contentious.

Bristol Bears’ loosehead Jordan Lay saw yellow against Leicester Tigers on Saturday for his high shot on Telusa Veainu. Referee JP Doyle conceded that he did try to make a legal tackle, but clipped his head nonetheless, and in this current climate it warranted a card.

There were two incidents after Bristol’s match which have caused more controversy though. The first involved Saracens’ Owen Farrell for his shoulder to the neck of Worcester Warriors winger Tom Howe. The England flyhalf has a reputation for dubious tackles, and this has once again been assigned to the catalogue of hits he has got away with, much to the spleen of fans.

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However, while some feel that Farrell receives preferential treatment, Northampton Saints centre Rory Hutchinson was just as lucky in a frenzied match against Wasps on Sunday for a very similar tackle on Charlie Matthews.

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Referee Matthew Carley let the Scotland centre off for his tackle as Matthews’ body position had lowered before contact. It was perhaps also helped by the fact that the Saints had just seen Tom Collins receive a red card for taking Jacob Umaga out in the air, and were about to see Cobus Reinach handed a yellow card.

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Farrell and Hutchinson were saved by the fact that they were secondary tacklers on players that were already going to ground, unlike Lay, who was the sole tackler on Veainu. However, given some of the dismissals seen over the past twelve months, no one would have complained if the Englishman or the Scot were sent off, or at least sent to the sin-bin.

There would possibly have been even more uproar if one of the Saracen or Saint was punished and the other one was not, meaning there is a degree of consistency amongst the decisions, albeit what many feel were the wrong decisions.

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While there was plenty of confusion during the Rugby World Cup at the liberality in which cards were awarded, that has quickly become the norm and the standard set, and now there is perhaps as much bewilderment at the lack of punishment.

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