Watch: Caleb Clarke sent off for 'reckless' challenge on Moana Pasifika winger
After bursting onto the scene in 2020 and quickly earning a call-up to the All Blacks, last year was a tougher 12 months for the wrecking ball. Injuries plagued the early stages of the season for the winger and his form never quite reached the heights of the prior campaign throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Clarke then linked up with the national sevens side in the lead-up to the Olympics and although he flew to Tokyo as a travelling reserve, he wasn’t ever able to take the field (and rarely left the hotel).
In 2022, however, Clarke appears to be back to the form that won him a place in the All Blacks side in 2020, with the winger impressing with his destructive running coupled with his unquestionable skill under the high ball.
On Saturday evening against Moana Pasifika, however, it wasn’t a scything run that was being replayed over and over on the big screen, it was instead a charge down attempt on his opposite winger, Tomasi Alosio.
In the 52nd minute of the match, Alosio received a wide pass from a scrum and charged down the right wing. With Blues players Stephen Perofeta and Clarke looming large, Alosio chipped ahead. Immediately following what looked like an attempt to charge down the kick, Clarke braced to protect himself in the air and his hip clobbered into Alosio, connecting with the Moana Pasifika winger’s head.
— Saffas Abroad Rugby (@SaffasRugby) April 2, 2022
After much discussion between referee James Doleman and his assistants, Clarke was dealt a red card and the Blues were forced to play with a man down for 20 minutes.
While there didn’t look to be any malice on Clarke’s behalf, the officials ruled that he wasn’t in a reasonable position to charge the ball down and his charge was “reckless”. Alosio also had to leave the field after the knock to the head.
As is the case with any controversial decision, fans took to social media to give their take on the red card.
Some were in support of the decision.
That’s really nasty from Caleb Clarke.ADVERTISEMENT
— Tight Five Rugby (@TightFive_Rugby) April 2, 2022
That’s very tough on Caleb Clarke but I think it had to be red. The disciplinary hearing will be very interesting.
— Christopher O’Neill (@connacht1885) April 2, 2022
Tough call but correct. You can’t put yourself in that position and clearly hit someone in the head. Advantage in that situation goes to the attacking player. So Unfortunate but correct call
— Brandon (@Brandon82038428) April 2, 2022
The majority, however, seemed to take umbrage with the call.
What in the name of hell is going on in Super Rugby?
— Tim O’Connor (@timoconnorbl) April 2, 2022
Surely that is just a rugby incident, he jumped to charge a kick down and the guy ran in to him.
Why do so many people seem to want people sent off all the time
— The Chinese Lensman (@Chinese_Lensman) April 2, 2022
I don’t like the place rugby is going. The red card was invented for deliberate acts of foul play, and what Caleb Clarke has done is not that.
What Nepo and Shilo did were deliberate, but what Clarke did would be more befitting of a yellow and maybe an on report system? #BLUvMOA
— Nicholas Friedlander (@NicholasFriedl3) April 2, 2022
Harsh red card there for Caleb Clarke…clumsy but not a red bana.
— Poghie Ndonga (@poghie_esquire) April 2, 2022
Some even suggested (perhaps with their tongues firmly in their cheeks) that Alosio should have been sent off for taking out Clarke in the air.
No red card for the other player taking out a player in the air? 🤣
— Joe M (@Mini_dunk) April 2, 2022
Clarke will likely face the judiciary this week following the incident, with Blues prop Nepo Laulala one game into his three-match ban for a reckless tackle in the earlier fixture between the two sides.
Despite the sending off, the Blues had no issues holding on to beat Moana Pasifika 46-16.
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