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Rival coaches in agreement, dangerous tackle punishments need a serious review

‘Why does the penalty vary on how a player falls?’ Asked a bewildered Mark Anscombe last night.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MARK ANSCOMBE SITS himself down in Ravenhill’s new media room. He’s showered, changed and he knows exactly what’s coming: a question about an early red card:

Our red card?” Comes his mischievous response. And at that moment it feels like it’s going to be one of those nights of partisan-only opinions. It didn’t quite materialise that way, however:

“It’s hard to defend,” he said of Tom Court’s tackle on Devin Toner.

“The fact is that if you lift someone up, you’re putting yourself in that position, aren’t  you? I have to have a better look at it tomorrow, but I suppose it might have been fair.”

Right, that’s that one done and dusted, but back to his specialist subject, tackling in the air.

Though referee Luke Pearce did come in for criticism later from the Kiwi coach, Anscombe did not appear to have an issue with the award of a yellow card to Rhys Ruddock.

The discontent arises from the advice given by referees when handing out sanctions for tackling players in the air: Against Saracens, Jerome Garces told Jared Payne ‘The player landed on his head, it’s an automatic red card.’ Last night, Pearce told Ruddock, ‘the player landed on his side, so it’s a yellow card’.

There is a consistency there, sure, but sense?

“I’m at a loss. I don’t understand…,” says the coach whose son Gareth, it should be remembered, plays professionally as a fullback and so has a duty to contest high balls.

Paddy Jackson is tackled high by Rob Kearney resulting in a penalty try and a yellow card Anscombe complained that Ulster should have been awarded a penalty on halfway once the penalty try could not be awarded when Paddy Jackson touched down. Source: Presseye/Brian Little/INPHO

“Surely the penalty is on what you do: Are you competing, are you challenging, are you taking a guy out and putting him at risk?

“Why does the penalty vary on how he falls?

“If he falls on his shoulder or neck it’s a red card, but if he falls on his back then it’s a yellow. Well, that’s not to do with the intent. It’s inconsistent. You’re tossing a coin.

“If a guy falls and puts his arm down, he’s protecting the offender because he’s looking after himself while falling. That’s crap.”

Having benefited from the angle of Paddy Jackson’s crash onto the turf, Leinster coach Matt O’Connor would speak less colourfully on the subject, but echoed the call for a change to the current trial by TMO process and made the case for the word ‘intent’ to be slipped into Law 10.4.

“At the end of the season we need to look at it. It’s a contact sport, it’s a collision sport and sometimes people get hurt, but there’s no malice in it.

“I think we can look at it not altering the result of a game. I think you’ve got to look at a reporting system like rugby league has, where you sit down at the end of it and Monday or Tuesday you sit down when the emotion’s gone.

“No malice, no intent – they’re massive factors in red cards for me. You have situations where there is cynical play going on the field that nobody takes any notice of and you’ve got people accidentally doing things and getting yellow carded. That’s not right.”

Source: RaboDirect PRO12/YouTube

O’Connor was focusing on the case of Ruddock, but there were also suggestions from the Red Handed corner that Zane Kirchner should also have been sanctioned in the lead up to Leinster’s only try of the game against the 14 men. There, Anscombe agreed, there was no intent to warrant severe punishment, if any at all.

“Taking the guy out, that [should be] the intent of what you do. Like, I think the Kirchner one; he had his back to Tommy [Bowe] – I don’t think that was a red card.

“It’s the intent you have on the ground that should be the penalty.”

Ulster down to 14 men AGAIN as Tom Court is sent off for spear tackle

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Sean Farrell

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