Samoa A player Ausetalia Vaiomanu has seen his two-match ban for abusing a match official increased to 32 weeks after an IRB appeal.
An independent appeal officer has upheld an appeal by the IRB of the sanction applied Vaiomanu, who was found to have physically abused a match official during a match in the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup in Australia recently.
Following the match between Argentina Pampas XV and Samoa A, which took place in Canberra, Australia, on March 11, Vaiomanu was cited under Law 10.4 (m) for acts contrary to good sportsmanship, specifically, physical abuse of the referee.
In the first-instance hearing, an independent judicial officer found the player to have committed the cited breach of Law 10.4(m) and imposed a sanction of two weeks.
IRB Regulation 17 sets out a mandatory sanctioning regime including a sanction table. The sanction table contains a specific set of sanctions for physical abuse of a match official, with entry points of 24 weeks, 48 weeks and 96+ weeks for low-end, mid-range and top-end offending respectively.
On review of the decision of the independent judicial officer, published on March 13, it appeared to the IRB that he had misapplied the mandatory sanctioning required by IRB Regulation 17. Accordingly, the IRB lodged an appeal against the sanction on March 14.
The appeal was heard on March 19 by independent appeal officer Terry Willis (Australia) sitting in Sydney. Following a full review of the case, Willis found errors in the reasoning of the independent judicial officer and upheld the IRB's appeal. Willis was then required to assess the seriousness of the offence, determine the relevant entry point and mitigating factors.
Having considered all of the evidence that was before the independent judicial officer and his findings of fact, Willis determined that the correct section of the IRB sanctioning regime was "physical abuse of match officials" due to the finding that the player deliberately used his shoulder into the back of the match referee. This resulted in a mid-range entry point of 48 weeks.
After considering the mitigating factors, including the player's unblemished disciplinary record and his remorse, the appeal officer reduced the otherwise applicable entry point sanction from 48 weeks to 32 weeks.
As such, the player is suspended for 32 weeks, effective immediately. He is therefore suspended from all forms of Rugby up to and including October 26, 2014.