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Sam Gilbert handed ban for tip tackle on Wallabies captain Michael Hooper

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The Highlanders will be without utility back Sam Gilbert for the remainder of the season after the 23-year-old was handed a five-week ban for a dangerous tip tackle on Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper.

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Gilbert, who stepped into the No 10 jersey for the Highlanders for their matches with the Reds and Waratahs, but will play no further part in the team’s campaign, with just one round left in the regular season and up to three finals matches.

The tip tackle occurred in the 28th minute of the Highlanders’ disappointing loss to the Waratahs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. Gilbert attempted to clear Hooper out of a breakdown and in doing so, lifted Hooper’s leg, tipping the Wallabies captain off balance and plunging his head into the turf.

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Predicting the Super Rugby Pacific play-offs.
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Predicting the Super Rugby Pacific play-offs.

Gilbert was rightly red-carded at the time and following the match – which the Waratahs won 32-20 – Hooper suggested that Gilbert should be set for some time on the sidelines.

“I don’t wish that on anyone,” Hooper said to Sky Sport in the post-game broadcast.

“These things happen in this game but I was disappointed that it happened to me. He [Gilbert] should miss some weeks I think.”

While Gilbert’s tackle merited a 10-week ban, according to the Sanzaar judiciary, it has been reduced to five weeks due to Gilbert’s “clean judicial record” and “his acceptance of foul play”.

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The full finding from foul play review committee chairman Michael Herron reads:

“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from the player and submissions from his legal representative, Aaron Lloyd, the Foul Play Review Committee upheld the Red Card under Law 9.18.

“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of 10 weeks due to a combination of features including the degree of recklessness exhibited and the danger posed to the tackled player. Taking into account mitigating factors including the Player’s clean judicial record, his acceptance of foul play, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to 5 weeks.

“The player is therefore suspended for 5 weeks, up to and including 25 June 2022.”

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The Highlanders are set to take on the Rebels in Melbourne this weekend and require at least two competition points from the match to guarantee a spot in the quarter-finals. Should they lose to the Rebels, the Force could sneak into eighth spot ahead of the Highlanders with a win over the Hurricanes in Perth.

With Gilbert banned from taking part and regular first five Mitch Hunt recovering from a head knock, the Highlanders will have to run with a new No 10 when they take on the Rebels.

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