Monday 27 March 2017

Fekitoa should have seen red for high tackle on Zebo

New Zealand's Malakai Fekitoa Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
New Zealand's Malakai Fekitoa Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

New Zealand should have played the last 31 minutes of Saturday's win over Ireland with 14 men, an independent disciplinary committee has ruled.

All Blacks match-winner Malakai Fekitoa will miss their final game of 2016 against France after his high tackle on Simon Zebo was upgraded from a yellow-card offence to a red-card one after a hearing under the chairmanship of England's Anthony Davies in London.

Referee Jaco Peyper and his touch-judge Ian Davies decided that the dangerous challenge merited a sin-binning during the hot-tempered affair. When the decision came, New Zealand were 14-6 up and, after spending 10 minutes off the pitch, the centre returned to score the game's decisive try.

Fekitoa's team-mate Sam Cane, who is already out of this weekend's game with an ankle injury, escaped punishment for the tackle that left Robbie Henshaw concussed early in the game.

A penalty was awarded for the challenge, but television match official Jon Mason concluded that it didn't merit further action and Davies and his committee agreed, deeming the contact "accidental" and not an act of foul play.

Recklessly

Fekitoa, however, was deemed to have committed a sending-off offence, although it was concluded that he acted "recklessly rather than intentionally" when he launched himself in Zebo's direction and thus he was given a two-week ban, reduced to one because he admitted wrong-doing, previous good record and good conduct at the hearing.

Ireland were left fuming by Peyper's performance and the perceived leniency the South African and his team of officials showed towards high tackles and dangerous play.

Although Henshaw has been ruled out of Saturday's final November fixture against Australia, Joe Schmidt has not given up on his fellow head injury victims CJ Stander and Rob Kearney recovering in time to play.

Both took some part in training yesterday and are progressing well on their return-to-play protocols, according to assistant coach Simon Easterby.

Ultan Dillane, Peter O'Mahony and Keith Earls are all fit again, while Paddy Jackson is set to take over from Johnny Sexton at out-half and Stuart Olding could replace Henshaw.

Irish Independent

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