Blues flanker Luke Braid has pleaded guilty to a charge of punching during his side’s weekend loss to the Stormers. According to an official SANZAR release, judicial officer Mike Heron has handed Braid a ban of 3 weeks.
The reasoning behind Heron’s decision follows:
“Luke Braid was cited for striking a Stormers player during the match on 16 March 2012 in Cape Town. The Citing Commissioner cited him for a breach of Law 10.4(a) for striking the Stormers player twice, to the back of the neck and head. The matter came to me as Duty JO. Due to the travel commitments of the Blues, Braid and his coach asked for further time to complete the Duty JO process. I granted that and spoke on the telephone to the player and his counsel on 20 March, the morning after the Blues returned to Auckland. After following the Duty JO process (in Rule 7), I gave an indication of penalty to the player (and Mr Lloyd his counsel) of three weeks suspension. After taking time to consider that, the player accepted that penalty. Accordingly, the player is suspended from all forms of the game for three weeks, until and including Friday 6th April 2012 (which includes two scheduled Super Rugby matches and a bye week).
My reasons in summary are:
The footage showed Braid struck the Stormers player twice, the first with his forearm to the back of the neck, the second with a part-open hand to the head. The Stormers player was lying on the ground and not able to avoid the blows. I find the striking (on both occasions) to be deliberate and dangerous. I accept however the submission for Braid that the force was not severe and the impact in the circumstances was not significant. The player accepted the conduct was intentional, but explained it resulted from his frustration with the Stormers player and his belief that the player was infringing at a critical time (and place) in the match. Braid accepted, however, that the conduct was inappropriate and he was remorseful. His explanation (of frustration and trying to get the opposition player to stop impeding the ball) does have some support from the footage.
In those circumstances, I find that the entry level for the conduct is mid range, resulting in a starting sanction of five weeks suspension.
In the circumstances I do not find any material aggravating features. The impact on the Stormers player was mild despite the vulnerable position and there was no impact on the game. The player accepted guilt immediately and expressed sincere remorse. He has no other citings, and no yellow cards for any similar incidents (the one yellow card in Super Rugby is for an unrelated matter). This is his 5th season of professional rugby and he is an accomplished member of the Blues side. His frustration and remorse at the situation were clear from his dealings with me and the submissions of Mr Lloyd.
In light of the mitigating features, I am prepared to reduce the sanction by two weeks, to a final penalty of three weeks suspension. I note that the Blues have a bye week during that time. I have considered whether I should increase the penalty to reflect that, but have decided against that. The suspension is required to be meaningful, but is to be expressed in weeks, and covers all forms of the game. The scheduling of the bye week is not within the control of the Blues or the player and is coincidence. In all the circumstances, I do not find it necessary to increase the suspension.
Accordingly, the player is suspended from all forms of the game for three weeks, until and including Friday 6th April 2012 (which includes two scheduled Super Rugby matches and a bye week). “Tweet