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Zach Mercer red 'wrecks' Champions Cup thriller

By Ian Cameron
The MHR No.8 was sent off.

Montpellier’s Zach Mercer was shown a red card by referee Andrew Brace for a tackle on Exeter Chiefs’ forward Christ Tshiunza in today’s Heineken Champions Cup match at Sandy Park.

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Mercer made fleeting contact with the head of the Chief’s lock in the 49th minute and it was enough for the call to be sent ‘upstairs’ for TMO Joy Neville to review.

Brace determined that there was “no mitigation” for the tackle, despite Mercer’s protests that Tshiunza had already dropped his height.

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The decision has caused a stir on social media, with many fans and pundits questioning the call. Some argue that there was a lack of force in the hit, and that Tshiunza appeared to be lowering his height as a result of an initial tackle, with Mercer being a secondary collision.

Sunday Times columnist Stephen Jones wrote: “Red card for Zach Mercer at Exeter reveals the silly side of new framework. At time of contact Mercer hardly moving. Way more of a graze than an impact.”

One, more reasonable, Tweeter wrote: “Personally thought the red card from Mercer was VERY unlucky . Thought Serfontein tackled the player first causing a slight dip making it high, was not with a lot of force so I was thinking penalty if he was lucky or yellow at most,” while another wrote: “Sorry but that is not a red. Tackler is passive, doesn’t accelerate into him, secondary tackler. Bad bad call.”

Rugby journalist Jon Cardinelli wrote: “I don’t see any mitigation,” says the ref. But Mercer isn’t the initial tackler, and yhe ball carrier is brought down lower before making contact with Mercer…”

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Another account queried why a HIA wasn’t mandatory in the situation given the decision implied there was significant force in the head contact. “Another great game, wrecked by another needless red card,” wrote lineout nause. “Zach Mercer very unlucky for me. There wasn’t a high level of danger. And if there was, why isn’t a HIA mandatory?”

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