Zack Holmes will be available for Toulouse’s Champions Cup semi-final in Dublin after a disciplinary hearing banned him for just one week following his red card in the quarter-final win at Racing 92.
There had been fears that the Australian would receive a ban that would keep him out of his club’s huge game against defending champions Leinster.
However, while the committee at an independent disciplinary hearing in Paris upheld the red card decision, it found that the act of foul play was at the low end of World Rugby’s sanctions and selected two weeks as the appropriate entry point.
There were no aggravating factors and due to Holmes’s guilty plea and good disciplinary record, the committee reduced the sanction by one week before imposing a suspension of one week. As he was suspended pending the disciplinary hearing, Holmes is free to play immediately. Both the player and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
Holmes had been red-carded just 22 minutes into the quarter-final on March 31. The Toulouse out-half had initially appeared to have got away scot-free for his intervention near the half-way line on Racing winger Imhoff, referee Luke Pearce at first stating: “There has not been foul play on the tackle, so we can play on, correct? Okay.”
— Actu Rugby (@acturugbyfrance) April 10, 2019
However, with the partisan Parisian crowd incensed after a video was shown on the La Defense stadium screen, Pearce changed his mind, called time off and opted to properly review the incident.
Here’s now Pearce’s assessment was reached during his red card conversation with TMO Rowan Kitt…
LP: You can totally understand why I want to have one more look at it. Okay, we are in no rush.
RK: I am going to show you a high tackle. I want you to look at his right arm.
LP: Ok, there is no worries. Put it on the screen for me please.
RK: Yeah, it’s coming now.
LP: So Kitty, for me we definitely have foul play first to begin with.
LP: So now we need to decipher because on the screen this looks bad, so I need to decipher if the Racing guy is falling to ground which would make it not a red card if he is not dipping. From what I am seeing on the screen it’s a shoulder to the neck of the Racing player.
RK: Yeah, I agree with that.
LP: So can we have one more look at that just to make sure the guy is not dipping to ground which might bring it down? Let’s have a look, let’s just slow it down. So the point of contact by 10, I am not seeing anything mitigating.
RK: It’s his right arm hitting first but there is shoulder into neck as well.
LP: So listen, I am not seeing enough to mitigate this down to anything other than a red card. Is anyone else seeing anything different here? To the neck, with force, it’s a red card. Kitty, are we in agreement here? Anything to add?
Not a red card IMO, Zach Holmes is in almost optimal position for a dominant tackle. Imhoff dips at the last minute. No intention to go that high at all.
I can see why Luke Pearce has given a red though.
— Jim Hamilton ? (@jimhamilton4) March 31, 2019
Pearce then moved back towards the players, holding a meeting with Holmes that also had Toulouse skipper Jerome Kaino and Racing captain Dimitri Szarzewski in attendance.
LP: Okay, so No10 please. Just let me explain. We had another look on the screen, you have tackled him high, there aren’t any mitigating factors and your shoulder has gone straight into his neck. That’s a red card.
It was Holmes’ first red card in his career and there was sympathy as he walked towards the touchline, the Toulouse No10 receiving a couple of sympathetic handshakes from Racing players including the high-tackled Imhoff.
The distraught Australian ultimately had the last laugh, though, his team rallying to find a way to still win despite being a man down.
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