Bristol boss Pat Lam used a post-game live television interview on Tuesday night to sternly criticise the Gallagher Premiership judiciary process that resulted in Siale Piutau getting the same three-match ban as Worcester’s Andrew Kitchener, the player who punched him in a match last Friday night.
Kitchener was sent off for punching Piutau in the 79th-minute at Sixways, but the Bristol veteran was also cited for striking back in what Lam claimed was self-defence. Piutau was chosen to play against Northampton on Tuesday, but Lam had to rejig his selection following the suspension that was announced on Monday evening.
The whole process left the Bears coach annoyed and he said as much when interviewed by BT Sport following the 47-10 Ashton Gate win over Saints. “I’m just extremely frustrated. When I look at Siale Piutau and the person he is, the leader he is and the man he is – in the judiciary process of both Andrew Kitchener and Siale Piutau, the messages and the inconsistency is the difficulty that I’m struggling with because Siale is being attacked by two guys,” said Bristol boss Lam.
“He is 5ft 11. 6ft 7, 6ft 6 are coming at him. Our game should be a safe place but for two guys to come at him, particularly one, and start swinging at him. Our process means you’re not allowed to strike back. Now he [Piutau] has had five concussions: if he gets whacked in the head, he’s lucky he blocked the first one. We have had Will Hurrell’s career ended (with a concussion) and he [Piutau] is getting pummelled in the head.
“But if he doesn’t strike back, if he doesn’t defend himself, which in common law you can defend yourself but on the rugby field you are not allowed to, you have just got to take it… it was an unprovoked attack. He [Kitchener] came at him – but the message is that you can do that, start a fight, punch someone and it’s the same penalty for both.
Pat Lam wanted the floor to address Siale Piutau's three-match ban.
"You've got to have self-defense. You should be able to defend yourself if someone attacks you lie that."
"What do I say to his wife & kids if he gets a whack in the head?"
"Things have got to change…" pic.twitter.com/8q9xCbhLy2
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 8, 2020
“And also to be able to swear at a referee and not be charged on it, and the inconsistencies when we talk about some of the hits that were going in there, there needs to be real clarity and shake up because the message that came out of that is wrong.
“He [Piutau] has got his children and a wife and is a big leader in our team. But (for it) to be put out there the way it has isn’t great. I don’t think it is great for our game. You have got to have self-defence. What has he [Piutau] done? He’d made the tackle, turned the ball over, stepped back, the guy didn’t like it and he walked over and started swinging at him.
“Yeah, he didn’t connect because Siale blocked it out, but you should be able to defend yourself if someone wants to attack you like that. For that person [Kitchener] to get the same punishment as someone defending himself, what do I say to Siale’s wife and his children if he gets a whack in the head and he can’t defend himself? Sorry, your husband is in hospital?
“We talk in the game about mental wellness, we talk about player welfare but to go into that (judiciary) process, I was absolutely disappointed. I just hope that some good can come out of this… for someone to swear the way they did at our No1 referee (Wayne Barnes) and there is no charge, yet we saw some of the hits on Semi Radradra, we saw the hit on Ben Earl. I have had players cited for less than that but that is allowed to happen.
“Things have got to change, it really does because player safety is important. They break it down to Siale swung a punch but put it in context, put it on the street. You have got two men running at you. You can (either) take it and get damaged or you can protect yourself. And if you are going to protect yourself from that type of attack, you should be protected in the judiciary by our game. I just want the best for our game and our players.”
Having listened to Bristol boss Lam vent his grievances, BT Sport pundit Lawrence Dallaglio added about the Piutau situation: “There is a lot of frustration there, you can tell that. A lot of sensitivity as well, Will Hurrell has had to retire because of concussion.
“I can see where Pat is coming from in the sense that Siale Piutau was the one that was attacked and yet the punishment for both players ends up being the same. I don’t get that myself in the judiciary. One guy throws a punch, Andrew Kitchener, and gets three games. One guy defends himself in self-defence, which he is not allowed to do on the rugby field, and also gets three games. I don’t get that. And I think there were a few other incidents in the game that Pat Lam feels very bitter and disappointed about.”
Fellow pundit Ugo Moyne then interjected: “But Lawrence, the whole process – and we are not talking about this in isolation – has been flawed for years. The fact that you can get your ban halved just because of records or pleading guilty and all the rest of it is appalling. Since lockdown, the referees have said that decisions on the pitch, you want them to make sense. We need the judiciary process to also make sense and it just doesn’t.”
Dallaglio replied: “People want consistency. Dylan Hartley was sent off the field for swearing at a referee. Yet Pat Lam has raised an issue there saying that has not been dealt with. Semi Radradra took a forearm to the head, that wasn’t cited so that is another inconsistency in the game. They haven’t covered themselves in glory with this particular judiciary process.”
"I felt ‘I think I’m okay’, but it just deteriorated over the game. I couldn’t understand the calls. I couldn’t remember…
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