Friday 28 July 2017

'Why was Sean O'Brien deemed not guilty?' - New Zealand media fume over decision to dismiss citing

Sean O'Brien of the British & Irish Lions arrives at New Zealand Rugby Offices in Wellington for a judicial hearing after being cited for dangerous play during the second Test of the NZ Lions Series, held at Westpac Stadium, Wellington. Photo by Mark Tantrum/Sportsfile
Sean O'Brien of the British & Irish Lions arrives at New Zealand Rugby Offices in Wellington for a judicial hearing after being cited for dangerous play during the second Test of the NZ Lions Series, held at Westpac Stadium, Wellington. Photo by Mark Tantrum/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The New Zealand media is not happy with how Lions juggernaut Sean O'Brien had his citing quashed without a proper explanation being released.

The Tullow Tank was cited by match citing commissioner Scott Nowland for allegedly striking New Zealand wing Waisake Naholo with his arm during Saturday's second Test.

The 59th minute incident saw O'Brien catch the winger with a swinging arm after he collected a restart. Naholo was taken off for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) but return soon afterwards.

Citing commissioner Scott Nowland believed O'Brien's action warranted a red card and he was cited. After a four-hour hearing the citing was dismissed but the statement that was released following the decision has angered many.

Writing in Stuff.co.nz, Aaron Goile complained at the lack of an explanation as to why O'Brien's challenge was not deemed to be a red card.

"That O'Brien's 59th minute shot on Naholo was let go on-field was somewhat understandable - it didn't look overly bad from a particular angle, though referee Jerome Garces did have replays showing him head contact," he said.

"When Nowland then cited O'Brien for dangerous play (under law 10.4 [a] striking), and believing it had met the red card threshold, that was also understandable, with World Rugby's new edict around taking the head out of play to increase safety.

"What was not so easy to understand, however, was how O'Brien was given a free pass to the Garden of Eden for Saturday's blockbusting series decider.

"It'd just be nice to be able to inform the public and those masses of rugby fans about why O'Brien was deemed not guilty and why it didn't meet red card criteria after all.

"The all-Australian judicial panel of chair Adam Casselden SC, and former players David Croft (Wallabies and Reds) and John Langford (Wallabies, Brumbies and Munster) had just finished up on Williams' case before O'Brien's turn came, in Wellington on Sunday night.

"A long day for the trio, but after a marathon near four-hour hearing, that's some serious consideration.

"But all we get at the end of it is a paragraph which reads: 'Having conducted a detailed review of all the evidence available, including all video footage and additional evidence from the player and submissions from his legal representative Max Duthie, the independent judicial committee dismissed the citing complaint'.

"While of course we don't care for a word-for-word account of how it played out, just a bit more summary of why the verdict was reached would do the world of good.

"It is understood that the full decision from the panel has not been made available to even New Zealand Rugby.

"In the Williams case there wasn't a lot more explanation but it at least stated why he was at fault and how they came to the suspension duration.

"In a guilty verdict you can understand the rationale more.

"But in a not guilty decision there should really be more clarity.

"Players will be left wondering what really is and isn't allowed on the field, while fans will just be left scratching their heads further."

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