Case Number:

RLWC21/153

Junior Paulo #10, Samoa

Competition:

Men's Rugby League World Cup

Match:

Tonga v Samoa

Match Date:

2022-11-06

Incident:

Leading with elbow/forearm

Decision:

Charge

Charge Detail:

Law 15.1 (a) Trips, kicks or strikes another player Strikes – other Striking offences Grade A

Sanctions:

1 Match Penalty Notice

Decision On Charge

Player plea:

Guilty but challenge the grading

Summary of CM's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

Following a Match Review Panel meeting held on 7 November 2022, you are charged with misconduct for a breach of Law 15.1(a) – “Trips, kicks or strikes another player” of the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines during the above Match. The Panel reviewed an incident which occurred in approximately the Opta Time 01:35:38 of the above Match. In the Panel’s opinion you struck your opponent. The Panel believed that your actions were contrary to the true spirit of the game and had the potential to cause your opponent injury. In accordance with the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines, the Panel consider that such offence is a Grade A offence – Trips, kicks or strikes another player – Other striking offences. In accordance with RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines, the Match Review Panel consider that this matter should be dealt with by way of a Notice of Charge. As such, the appropriate sanction is determined with reference to Section 7.1 of the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines under which the Norman Suspension Imposed for this offence is 1 match. • The Match Review Panel reviewed an incident which occurred at 01:35:38 Opta time (78th minute of the match). • Panel decided the player struck his opponent to the neck/throat with his elbow/forearm. • Against the true spirit of the game and had the potential to cause opponent injury. • Charged under Law 15.1(a) Trips, kicks or strikes another player - Other Striking offences - Grade range A-D. • Player is carrying the ball towards the opponent with a raised right arm – the non-ball carrying arm. • Dangerous act of projecting the arm towards opponent’s neck/throat (a fragile area) whilst moving at a considerable speed with significant force generated. • The position in which the player approached opponent with raised arm meant he could only hit the neck/throat. • Trajectory of player’s arm is clearly above the opponent’s shoulder and the arm is almost horizontal at the bend in the elbow to the hand. • Opponent immediately falls to the floor holding his neck/throat in pain, indicating that considerable contact has been made. • Head and neck heavily protected in the sport.

Summary of Player's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

Player in attendance alongside Matt Parrish (Head Coach), Lee Radford (Assistant Coach) and Stuart Baird (Legal Rep). Player challenges the Penalty Notice on improper grading of the offence. SB talked the Tribunal through the incident. They believe that JP carried the ball into contact and braced for the tackle using the right forearm to DF’s chest, to allow JP to break the tackle, spin away from DF and continue to drive for the try line. This is consistent with JP’s body position (in particular, the fact there is little separation between JP’s arm and his body at the point of contact) and foot movement/placement. It is the evidence of JP and DF that JP’s initial contact was made to DF’s upper body/chest area. DF is arguably in a poor position as a defender as JP approaches him – he is stood in an upright position, his left foot then raises off the ground, which affects his own ability to take the force of collision, and he leans/lowers his body at the point of contact with JP. As a result of JP trying to spin away from DF, and given the positioning of the two players, JP’s arm is pushed upwards after impact into DF’s neck area. This was perhaps a careless action but was not an intentional strike. JP has a good disciplinary record, which supports the contention that his actions on this occasion were not reckless/deliberate foul play which should warrant a match suspension. SB then listed several examples of similar incidents in the RLWC that were categorised as no charge or caution. It follows that a one match suspension would be disproportionate and inconsistent. In summary JP’s initial contact is to DF’s chest (as DF has confirmed) as JP braced himself for the tackle and tried to spin away from DF to drive towards the try line. As a result of the collision, JP’s arm is pushed upwards after impact. This was not intentional or deliberate foul play. In the circumstances, the Tribunal can be reasonably satisfied that this was not an incident which should carry a one-match suspension. As such, JP respectfully requests that the Tribunal downgrades the offence to a cation or Grade A – no match suspension.

Decision:

Not Guilty

Reasons for Decision:

The Tribunal direct themselves on the burden and standard of proof. The Compliance Manager shall have the burden of establishing that On Field Misconduct has occurred. The standard of proof shall be whether the Compliance Manager has established that On Field Misconduct has occurred to the reasonable satisfaction of the Tribunal, with due regard given to the seriousness of the allegation which is being made. This standard of proof in all cases is greater than a mere balance of probability but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The Tribunal have watched the footage and considered the submissions. We have seen stills of the incident. We bear in mind the definition of recklessness as set out in the Compliance Procedures and referred to by the Compliance Manager. On behalf of the MRP the Compliance Manager concedes that the footage does not show where the initial contact with the opponent was – i.e. whether it was with the neck and throat or whether it was with the chest. Both the player and the opponent, David Fifita, maintain that initial contact was with the chest. The Compliance Manager also concedes that if the initial contact was or may reasonably have been with the chest then the charge would not be made out as it would not be a strike to the neck/throat. In the light of the evidence of the player, the opponent and the footage the Tribunal are satisfied that initial contact may well have been with the chest. Therefore, the Tribunal cannot be reasonably satisfied that the contact was a “strike to the neck/throat” as alleged. The Tribunal therefore dismiss the charge and find the player Not Guilty.

Decision On Sanction (where found to have committed Misconduct)

Decision:

Decision pending...

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