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Two Super Rugby Pacific players suspended as Caleb Clarke awaits verdict

By Alex McLeod
Photo: Brett Phibbs / www.photosport.nz

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Two Super Rugby Pacific players have been handed three-week suspensions while Blues wing Caleb Clarke awaits his fait with the SANZAAR judicial committee.

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Clarke was one of four players handed red cards during the latest round of the competition, sent off during his side’s 46-16 win over Moana Pasifika at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

Leaping into the air in an attempt to charge down a kick by Tomasi Alosio, Clarke connected his thigh with the Moana Pasifika wing’s head while in midair, forcing his opposing player from the field with a concussion and memory loss.

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The five-test All Black was duly sent off, with referee James Doleman ruling that Clarke was never in a realistic position to charge the ball down, making his leap into the air a reckless play.

Doleman’s decision has been the subject of much discussion in recent days given the innocuous nature of the incident, which has since been put forward to the SANZAAR judicial committee.

In a statement released on Tuesday, SANZAAR said Clarke is alleged to have contravened law 9.11, which stipulates that “players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous”.

Clarke’s hearing will take place on Wednesday evening, and he could become the second Blues player to serve a suspension in a matter of days after prop Nepo Laulala was handed a ban last week.

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The All Blacks veteran was given a three-week suspension after colliding with the head of Moana Pasifika centre Fine Inisi while cleaning out a breakdown during his side’s 32-19 cross-town derby win at Mt Smart Stadium on Tuesday.

By being sent off, Laulala was the first of the four players to have been red carded in round seven of Super Rugby Pacific, with the other two being Crusaders hooker Shilo Klein and Reds flanker Tuaina Tualima.

Klein was sent from the field after his shoulder made direct contact with the head of All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot while making a tackle late in his side’s 17-14 win over the Highlanders in Christchurch on Friday.

Tualima, meanwhile, was dismissed late in the first half of his side’s 21-7 win over the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane for the same indiscretion while cleaning out Wallabies prop James Slipper at a breakdown.

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Klein and Tualima have subsequently joined Laulala in being handed three-week suspensions, with SANZAAR confirming their bans on Tuesday.

Klein was deemed to have contravened law 9.13, whereby “a player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously”, while Tualima was ruled to have contravened law 9.20 of “dangerous play in a ruck or maul”.

SANZAAR said the acts of both players merited six-week suspensions, but mitigating factors – such as their clean judicial records and show of remorse – resulted in the reduction of Klein’s and Tualima’s bans arketo three weeks.

As such, Klein will be unavailable for Crusaders selection until their round 11 clash with the Waratahs in Sydney on April 30, while Tualima won’t play for the Reds until their round 12 match against the Highlanders in Brisbane on May 6.

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