McKenzie in tune on foul play

Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie has condemned the inconsistency of a SANZAR judiciary system that has again not punished punching.

McKenzie, writing a column for the Sydney Morning Herald, singled out Ben Tune’s punch against the Sharks and Tony Woodcock’s three punches on Victor Matfield as a poor reflection on the inconsistencies that continue to plague the Super 14.

McKenzie, who lost Rocky Elsom for four weeks and Donut Donnung for one week after they were cited for punching against the Bulls, said the matter was made even worse when Tune admitted he punched a Sharks opponent and then said it was justified. He also questioned how only a penalty could have been awarded when Woodcock landed three punches on Matfield.

McKenzie wrote: “The rugby rules are clear on punching. Throw a punch and you expect a significant penalty. Punching attracts a foul play entry point at the judiciary of two weeks’ suspension. To get less you would need to plead a pretty good case and have an impeccable record. Practically speaking, the referee will deal with foul play matters on the field. Penalty, yellow card and even red card are at his disposal.

“Ben Tune admitted his punch to the face of a Sharks opponent and that the circumstances were that he was “lucky” not to be cited and his punch was “justifiable” darkened my mood. If we are to ever truly swim in the pool of professional sports then there should never be a foul play circumstance that is “justifiable”, nor should you be “lucky” to avoid sanction”. I know it’s a contact sport and all that, but you must have standards and this one has been universally agreed to.

“In our match against the Cheetahs, our hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau was knocked out from behind in back play. Pleasingly, their halfback was called to account by the citing commissioner and after a hearing was given a one-match penalty.

“Then in the Blues-Bulls match on the same weekend, there was a fracas. The referee called the guilty players to account. Victor Matfield, who was getting punched and had his eye split open, asked the question at the end of the referee’s justification for only issuing a penalty: “It’s all right to throw punches now?” He makes an excellent point.”

McKenzie said that the Tahs accepted the Elsom and Dunning decisions because they believed it heralded the start of a no-nonsense stance in Super 14 when it came to foul play. His conclusion now is that clearly the old ways have returned — and so too the leniency and inconsistency.