Western Force scrum-half Ian Prior has been handed a three-week suspension for a dangerous tackle against the Chiefs.
The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer accepted a guilty plea from Prior for contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he was sent off in the first half of his team's 35-27 loss at Waikato Stadium on Friday.
Prior has been suspended from all forms of the game up to and including Sunday 17 May.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Nigel Hampton QC assessed the case.
In his finding, Hampton ruled the following:
"I viewed a number of angles of the incident which clearly showed the actions and reactions of the two players involved in the tackle, Ian Prior, the tackler and Tim Nanai-Williams, the tackled Chiefs' player, were able to be seen.
"It was submitted that this was a tackle similar to a previous case in 2015 (Liam Gill, March 2015) which I did not accept. The Gill tackle was an unusual and uncommon manoeuvre whereas this tackle fell into the relatively commonplace for lifting tackles.
"The tackled player was fortunately not injured through a combination of good fortune and his own attempts to break his descent. I found the incident to be at the lower end entry level for sanctioning purposes which has an entry point of four weeks.
"Prior had positioned himself for a high impact collision with Nanai-Williams who, momentarily before impact, had lost the ball, slowed himself down and brought himself into a more upright position, which altered the situation. Prior had shut his eyes as he went into the tackle and was unprepared for such an altered situation.
"This meant the tackle effected was completely different to what the player had anticipated in terms of the changed momentum and stance of the tackled player. Realising that he had "lost control of the tackle", Prior tried to release the tackled player who went to ground at a dangerous angle with some force.
"An aggravating factor to be taken into account is the need for a deterrent for these tackles. Lifting tackles have been sought to be eliminated from the game and yet still remain. I added a week to the suspension as a deterrent. Mitigating factors that I took into account include the player's good record, his shame at letting his teammates down during the match and his early acceptance of guilt and genuine contrition for his actions. As a result of these factors, I reduced the suspension to three weeks which was accepted by the player.
"The Force have two matches followed by a bye in Round 14. I was told the player, who has had little match time during Super Rugby this year as a result of playing off the bench, was expected to play a club game for his club, Nedlands during the bye to continue developing his match fitness. I sought direct evidence from the Force coach, Michael Foley who provided details of Force players being released in previous bye weekends to play in the Perth Premier Grade Competition when available. I was satisfied that this match was meaningful and should be included in his suspension.
"Therefore, the player is suspended from all forms of rugby up to and including 17 May 2015."
All SANZAR disciplinary matters are in the first instance referred to a Duty Judicial Officer hearing to provide the option of expediting the judicial process.
For a matter to be dispensed with at this hearing, the person appearing must plead guilty and accept the penalty offered by the DJO.