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Red cards abound in Super Rugby Pacific

April 3, 2022 GMT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Queensland Reds’ win over the previously unbeaten ACT Brumbies Saturday shook up the standings in Super Rugby Pacific during a seventh round which proceeded amid a shower of red and yellow cards.

So ubiquitous have the cards become this season that some coaches and commentators have called for urgent change to rugby’s carding and disciplinary systems.

New South Wales Waratahs assistant coach Jason Gilmore echoed wider concerns when he recently observed “it’s rare to get through a professional rugby game at the moment with 15 on 15 for 80 minutes.”

During the Reds’ 21-7 win over the Brumbies on Saturday there was one red and three yellow cards which caused the Reds to play for 24 minutes and the Brumbies for 20 minutes with 14 players.

Reds flanker Tuaina Tuilima was shown a red card in the 34th minute for a dangerous clean out on Brumbies prop James Slipper.

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In the other matches during the seventh round, the Blues and All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala was sent off for a dangerous clean-out during his team’s 39-12 win in a catch-up match against Moana Pasifika on Tuesday. In the re-match on Saturday, won 46-16 by the Blues, the Blues and All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke was sent off in the 52nd minute for a dangerous charge on Moana Pasifika winger Tomasi Alosio who was forced from the field.

Replacement hooker Shilo Klein was sent off in the 77th minute of the Crusaders’ match against the Dunedin-based Highlanders in Christchurch on Friday for a shoulder charge on Highlanders’ prop Ethan de Groot. The Crusaders held on through a scoreless second half and without Klein to win 17-14.

Fijian Drua captain Nemani Nagusa received a red card for a high tackle on Tane Edmed in the 27th minute in his team’s 38-14 loss to the New South Wales Waratahs.

Only in the final match of the round on Sunday, when the Hamilton-based Chiefs beat the Wellington-based Hurricanes 30-29 were there no cards at all.

In most cases the referees were responding to incidents in which a player making a tackle or clean out made contact with the head of an opposing player. Rugby has been forced by growing concern over the safety and long-term health of players to act to prevent head injuries and more stringent refereeing of incidents in which head contact is made is part of that strategy.

But some coaches have expressed concern the frequency with which red cards are being dispensed has begun to damage Super Rugby in the eyes of spectators.

While Super Rugby Pacific has an experimental policy that allows red-carded players to be replaced after 20 minutes, reducing a team to 14 players even for a short time can have a major influence on the outcome of a match.

“I’m not blaming the match officials,” Gilmore said. “You get high contact and that sort of stuff is really big with concussion at the moment.

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“So by no means am I having a crack at that. But as a game we just have to have a look at. If we’re in the entertainment business and we’ve always been a momentum-based sport compared to rugby league and the like at the moment we probably lack a lot of momentum compared to the other two codes.”

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar recently suggested the implementation of an orange card for offenses which might involve head contact but which are accidental. He was speaking after Brumbies winger Tom Banks was shown a red card for an accidental head clash with his Western Force opposite Toni Pulu.

McKellar said red cards should be reserved for the most serious offenses and red-carded players should not be replaced. Yellow cards should be retained and should carry 10 minutes in the sin-bin while players who receive an orange card should be able to return or be replaced after 20 minutes.

“Deliberate foul play — throw red cards at them all the time. But for accidents, for God’s sake, we’re going to have accidents every week,” McKellar said.

Other commentators have suggested rugby should follow league’s system by placing players on report on the field and dealing with the discipline issue later.

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