Force scrumhalf Ian Prior has received a three-week ban for his tip-tackle on Tim Nanai-Williams during his side's defeat to the Chiefs on Friday.
Prior received a red card for the incident, which occurred in the first half of the match in Hamilton.
Prior pleaded guilty to contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, which states that lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.
Sanzar duty judicial officer Nigel Hampton assessed the case, and decided on a three-week sentence, despite the entry level for such offences standing at four weeks.
“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 decision is sure to provoke the ire of Saru president Oregan Hoskins, who voiced his concern earlier this month over the inconsistency of recent decisions of disciplinary committees.
The incident draws a parallel to the one involving Frans Steyn and Aaron Cruden, which saw the Sharks centre suspended from action for five weeks.
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