Gloucester Rugby’s outside centre, Bill Meakes, was sent off against Edinburgh in last week’s European Challenge Cup final for a high tackle on a player who didn’t even have the ball, and has since been banned for 2 weeks. Watch the incident here and decide for yourself whether you think he deserved the card, and equally, the subsequent sanction.
With less than 20 minutes remaining in the second half and leading 19-6, Gloucester appeared to be confidently steering the match toward their desired outcome. Their sin-binned player would only be absent for a further minute or so, and once back to full complement, the Cherry & Whites could almost feel the trophy in their grasp, as they looked to close out the victory.
That was until their young centre, Bill Meakes, suffered a moment of madness that would throw a near catastrophc spanner in the works, and make life much harder for his side.
As the Edinburgh backs approached, Meakes filled his spot in the Gloucester defensive setup. Drifting across he lined up opposition centre, Sam Beard, who was running an attacking line.
Then, almost inexplicably, Meakes wrapped his arm around Beard’s neck and as the Edinburgh player attempted to continue his run, Meakes did not let go. The result is that Beard’s legs got away from him and he hit the floor with a powerful thud, and stayed down.
The more the incident is viewed, the harder to explain Meakes’ actions become. Even if the Gloucester centre thought Beard had possession, the tackle would still have been absolutely appalling and probably a yellow card. Aside from that, at no point does Meakes actually appear to even look at Beard – his gaze is locked on the ball, which is not in Beard’s hands.
Gloucester played momentarily with only 13 players, until Ross Moriaty returned from the sin bin. The blindside flanker was picked out by the TMO for kneeing Edinburgh’s Fraser McKenzie, as he lay defenceless at the bottom of a ruck, which can be seen on page 2 of this post.
Moriaty’s actions, along with the yellow card, have also earned him a 2 week ban following his citing. Although the afflicted player didn’t receive such horrific injuries as Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip, who suffered three fractured verterbrae after being deliberately kneed by Pascal Pape of France in the Six Nations, should the punishment be more consistent with Pape’s?
The Frenchman was yellow-carded and eventually banned for 10 weeks – considerably longer than Moriaty. Inarguably the outcomes for Heaslip and McKenzie are worlds apart, but the intent from Moriaty and Pape is directly comparable, so the question remains, which criteria is more important when deciding punishment – outcome or intent?