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The disciplinary hearing evidence presented by red-carded Beno Obano

By Liam Heagney
Beno Obano leaves the field at Twickenham following his red card (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The RFU have published the seven-page disciplinary hearing written verdict that confirmed a four-game ban for Beno Obano, a sanction that can be reduced to three if the prop successfully completes tackle school. Last Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final had stopped in the 22nd minute so that referee Christophe Ridley and his officials could review the collision that had taken place when Bath front-rower Obano tackled Northampton’s Juarno Augustus.

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Ridley decided that what Obano did with his shoulder to the head of Augustus merited a red card and that left Bath a player short for the remainder of a match they were to lose 21-25 following Alex Mitchell’s converted 73rd-minute try. The sending-off then resulted in a midweek disciplinary hearing chaired by Matthew Weaver with Leon Lloyd and Mitch Read.

At it, Obano admitted an act of foul play but disputed that it reached the red card threshold. “The panel upheld the charge and the player received a four-match ban which will be reduced to three if he makes an application to World Rugby to undertake the coaching intervention programme (CIP).”

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URC Head of Match Officials Tappe Henning reveals some stunning red-card statistics

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URC Head of Match Officials Tappe Henning reveals some stunning red-card statistics

The RFU statement announcing the ban was accompanied by the written disciplinary verdict which included the evidence presented at the hearing by Obano. It read: “The player firstly expressed his regret at the incident and was plainly remorseful. He accepted that his actions amounted to foul play and did not seek to dispute that he made direct contact with the opposition player’s, Juarno Augustus (JA), neck/chin area.

“He confirmed that, on reflection, he would have wanted the tackle to be better executed but when questioned by the panel on the specifics of what he would do differently, he was extremely honest and confirmed that whilst there is, in his view, no ‘perfect tackle’, he did not consider that he could or should have done anything differently. That said, he was clear that he regretted the outcome of the tackle.

Penalties

13
Penalties Conceded
10
0
Yellow Cards
0
0
Red Cards
1

“The player described the build-up to the tackle and the tackle itself. He confirmed that he was chasing a kick off and was moving at speed. He saw JA catch the ball and evade a tackler to the player’s inside. It was clear at that stage, that JA was running towards the player.

“As such, the player described that he ‘put the brakes on’ and dropped his height by bending at the knees and hips and also through the back. As a result of lowering his height in this way, the player was looking at JA ‘through his eyebrows’.

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“He observed that JA was upright and his intention was to make contact with the ball when making his tackle. He recalled targeting the ball, dropping his head to make the tackle and then realising that he had made contact with something other than the ball, at which point he began to attempt to reduce his momentum.

“The player confirmed that his last sighting of JA before the tackle was JA in an upright position and recalled thinking that he could not attempt to tackle JA’s legs as they were too far in front of the player.

“Had the player attempted to tackle JA’s legs, he concluded that he would have had to have been off his own feet, making the tackle reckless. He stated that his movement in the tackle was forward rather than upwards. 14. After the match, the player shook hands with the opposition players including JA.”

A summary of the evidence presented at the hearing by referee Ridley was also included in the written verdict. “The referee’s evidence was that he considered, as he always does, the various factors concerning head contact, namely whether there was head contact; whether there was foul play; and any mitigation. He was of the view that whilst the player was low, he was not low enough and could have dropped his height further to make the tackle legal.

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“As such, he concluded that there was foul play. He then considered mitigation and concluded that the player had a clear line of sight to JA prior to the tackle and that there had been no sudden and significant drop in height on the part of JA or any significant change in the dynamics of the incident.

“He was specifically asked whether he considered the height of the tackler when making his assessment and he confirmed that he did, as part of his assessment as to whether the head contact was avoidable and, therefore, whether the tackle was an act of foul play.

“When asked about his comments at the time of the player ‘hitting up’ in the tackle, he confirmed that he had identified this but, on reflection, now considered this to be an irrelevant consideration as the key question for him was whether the player started at a height which rendered the tackle an act of foul play.

“The referee was cross-examined by the player’s counsel on whether he took account of the player’s attempts to lower his body height. Whilst the referee did not initially identify the tackler’s height as a relevant mitigation consideration, he confirmed that he considered all circumstances of the tackle when arriving at this decision to issue the red card and that he was familiar with the World Rugby head contact process guidelines (the HCP guidelines), having viewed them ‘more than one hundred times’.

“When it was put to the referee that he did not take account of the player’s attempt to lower his body height when assessing mitigation, the referee stated that he always considers all mitigation factors whether or not he expresses that in his conversation with the TMO and other match officials. His ultimate aim is to establish to what extent the dangerous tackle was avoidable.”

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