Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tongan Eddie Aholelei punches Jebb Sinclair after fight with Canada

Three Tongan players have been suspended following a fractious Pacific Nations Cup match against Canada at the weekend. Canada won the game, but it has been marred by incident, and the Tongan coach has since claimed that officials appear racist.

A fight broke out in the first half after something happened at the bottom of a ruck between Tongan centre Siale Piutau and Canadian hooker Ray Barkwill, with Nathan Hirayama getting involved.

Just as calm had been restored, Tongan prop Eddie Aholelei threw a punch to the face of Jebb Sinclair, decking him directly in front of the referee. Aholelei, who was given time off from the Melbourne Rebels to take part in the tournament, was red carded and referee JP Doyle.

In the disciplinary hearing 31-year-old father of five Aholelei admitted his guilt but said that he saw what he perceived to be a headbutt by Sinclair on his teammate. He was retaliating to that.

There were also two incidents in the second half, which resulted in yellow cards. One was an off the ball high shot, while the other was an incredibly dangerous looking late and high tackle.

After the match Tongan coach Man Otai accused match officials of treating his players unfairly because they are black. "I had a look at both (yellow cards). I couldn't really see why.

"It's almost like, these days you know, when a black man is tackling harder than the other, it seems to be the way," Otai told Canadian Press.

When asked if he thought his side were being singled out, Otai said: "Absolutely. It's a perception a lot of times. And I think some of the foreigners that are involved in our team now are starting to see that. It's just hard to battle or fight that stereotype, I guess.

"But I'm not taking away the fact that at times we do, I guess, make mistakes in terms of tackling — if I'm talking in general. But in today's game, I couldn't justify the two yellow cards."

Canadian winger Matt Evans was carried off the field on a stretcher after the David Halaifonua tackle knocked him out cold, while James Pritchard needed medical treatment before continuing.

Halaifonua has been suspended for six weeks for his tackle, while Piutau - who was deemed to have started the fight with punches on the Canadian hooker - and Aholelei have both been given three week suspensions for striking.

You can view full reports from the disciplinary hearings using the links below. They make for interesting reading, including quotes from the players and the reasons for their actions.

David Halaifonua report  | Siale Piutau report  | Edmund Aholelei report

View the high tackles | View match highlights

Page: 12View All

Posted by Rugbydump at 12:17 pm | View Comments (52)

Posted in Big Hits & Dirty Play

Viewing 52 comments

Ron_Mexico June 12, 2013 6:22 pm

"because they are black" ... my ass. Rather play some idiotic racism card than teach your team how to tackle. What a tool.

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Robert June 12, 2013 6:32 pm

A cheap and dangerous shot is a cheap and dangerous shot regardless of the colour of the perpetrator. All decisions by the refs are absolutely correct.

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Jones June 12, 2013 6:34 pm

He's not a great coach if he doesn't realise you have to wrap your arms in a tackle...

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matt June 12, 2013 7:49 pm

Not that either of those tackles were legal, but you don't...

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ruckinmaul June 12, 2013 6:36 pm

I thought Eddie Aholelei wears the number 13. He clearly start off

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Reality June 12, 2013 6:40 pm

That coach is an absolute dipshit. His players are singled out because they evidently don't tackle properly and because they punch people in the face. The red and second yellow were simply as clear as day, and it was hard to see what happened for the first but it looks like he ran into the guy's face with his elbow after the ball was gone, so if that's the case, obviously a yellow is in order. God, he's as bad as Brendan Venter.

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David June 12, 2013 6:42 pm

the second hit doesn't seem that bad... it looks like shoulder on shoulder, and he didnt really have time to wrap.

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DrG June 13, 2013 5:08 am

Read the report, 2 camera angles:

"It is difficult to see the exact point of contact but it is clearly above the line of Canada #11’s shoulders and appears to be at or about Canada #11 ‘s jawline."

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James June 12, 2013 6:42 pm

These are terrible clips, there is no need for this in rugby.
And that Tongan coach is an idiot.
There is no racism involved, these were clearly illegal tackles. Dirty play by Tonga.

And even if the IRB were racist, that "BLACK" man is still gonna walk - beat it boy!

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andy June 12, 2013 6:45 pm

Canada 2 starts the whole thing by getting a cheap punch at the back of the ruck on the Tonga player who is on the floor.

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KingDong June 13, 2013 11:33 am

How can you see that? The camera angles are shite?

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Rugbyfan June 12, 2013 7:08 pm

It's sad that sn exciting team like Tonga now also played the baseless racism card. Lost a lot if respect for them and clearly not a team with a lot of character. Shame in the current team for messing up the hard-fought repuration of their predecessors.

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Guest June 12, 2013 7:13 pm

I agree that first high tackle was a cheap shot (looked like an elbow was thrown/the player was clotheslined to be honest) and probably deserved a yellow... but the second one, as others have said, looked more like a shoulder to shoulder hit that happened at a weird angle or a collision of sorts. Not good form, but quite possibly an accident. The Tongan players seemed angry because they perceived Canada was taking cheap shots at them as well and not getting called, which leads me to the question of why Canada #2 didn't face any discipline for starting the fight? I can see why the Tongan coach is feeling like his team was targeted specifically, when the Canadian 2 didn't even get so much as a warning.

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MisterDavid June 12, 2013 7:35 pm

The Canadian hooker (Ray Barkwill) didn't get anything because - as the ref says repeatedly when talking to his touch-judges - he wasn't identified.

Retrospective action could be taken, but the footage doesn't really show anything.

As for the sinbinnings, I thought they were both f--king AWFUL 'tackles'. Tonga deserves better than to be represented like this. And shame on the coach too - absolutely no need for that.

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johndoe June 13, 2013 3:54 pm

Tongan no.13 should have received a red as well. Blatantly threw 2 or 3 punches to a prone player and then tried to have a go with another player. If he had been cited, he would've got a worse ban than any of those players because of his clear intent to hurt people.

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Guest June 12, 2013 7:15 pm

First off Tongans aren't black there brown so don't know what the coach is saying secondly this wouldn't happen if all Tonga internationals were released from Europe to play like Mafi tong'uhia and taumololo

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poccio June 12, 2013 7:53 pm

i bet a lot of canadians read the name of the tongan 1 as Eddie

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matt June 12, 2013 7:53 pm

I think the coach is wrong in this instance because both tackles looked illegal and certainly cardable. Also it baffles me how their number 6 stayed on after that scrap.

But I do think he has a bit of a point, it does seem to me that pacific island players more generally are singled out for their tackles more often than players from elsewhere. Whether this is a racism thing or simply the fact that lots of them have reputations as big hitters that proceed them, I don't know, but I would be annoyed from time to time about it.

This however was not one of those times. This was a 'keep your head down and hope the suspensions aren't too bad' time.

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Full Back June 12, 2013 8:33 pm

Nah man, these are terrible tackles and as you say they are the keep your head down and hope for the best times!
The islanders getting singled out has nothing to do with racism and everything to do about their tackling style, which they are actually quite proud of in most instances. It's always on the limit, spectacular when it comes off well, very dangerous when they get it wrong.
It's time they started putting a bit of margin between dangerous and legal the same as everyone else, and then they'll find they get treated like everyone else. Samoa are making strides without giving up their physicality, Tonga are quite a bit behind for now I reckon.
It's not going to change over night, but the last thing they need is a coach who tries to scapegoat...he should be grateful his 13 stayed on the pitch after kicking everything off in my opinion!

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matt June 13, 2013 5:14 pm

I agree that in this instance there is no question of injustice, and in fact it seems tonga got off lightly.
But I do still think that there are a lot of times when players are penalised or carded quite wrongly for a big tackle, and it seems to be that pacific islanders are the victims of these decisions more often than other people.

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stroudos June 12, 2013 8:11 pm

Not condoning it, but that was a lethal punch.

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The Green Mafia June 12, 2013 8:53 pm

One hundred percent behin what youj are saying, full back. The Pacific teams get singled out at times for a reason. You pull stuff like this once or twice and from that point on everyone expects you too. It may not be fair to the good guys in the pacific sides (not everyone is like that), but it is understandable, and they do have resposability as a team and as sportsmen to erradicate that sort of play. Samoa is the best example of trying to correct it. The pacific islanders certainly have the phisical potential, but often lack the discipline, fundamental skills and structural play to make a bid for bigger scalps. This samoan side has surprised many for it's big, effective and LEGAL defense (they won vs Australia because of it), understanding of the breakdown and even the much improved quality of their set-piece. Can you say that Samoa lost phisicality when compared to Tonga? No, just ask Scotland. But they certainly are less penalized, play a more steady, flowing game with an established game plan. It's all about the mentality

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matt June 13, 2013 5:17 pm

There were at least 2 tackles in Samoa's victory over Australia that were wrongly penalised just because they were big hits, Samoa have done a great job in improving their overall game, but they do still seem to get pinged a lot for tackles that would be let go if it wasnt a team with their reputation playing.

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Alex June 12, 2013 9:09 pm

Sorry, but they were beyond reckless and looked like they were deliberate, I seriously would've considered a red card for the first one, he knew what he was doing!!

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Guy Top Comment | June 12, 2013 9:21 pm

Sounds like the Tongan coach is made out of the same genetic material as Peter de Villiers...

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Sydney Subby June 12, 2013 11:13 pm

Anyone who thinks that second tackle was legal is having a laugh. I'll admit it's hard to see where the initial contact is, but at no point there was the tackler ever intending to wrap his arms. You see these Pacific Island nations do it all the time; they put their arm out wide when shoulder-charging so it looks like they're intending to wrap, but that was always going to be a cheap shot and in my opinion the contact was predominantly with the head. Right call on the yellow card.

As for the first, clear yellow even if the Canuck does try to milk it a bit.

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stroudos June 13, 2013 10:26 am

"You see these Pacific Island nations do it all the time; they put their arm out wide when shoulder-charging so it looks like they're intending to wrap" - which is in fact all that the law requires you to do.

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DrG June 13, 2013 12:24 pm

But Stroudos, that is effectively a con.

I've always been told if you are going to end up in a scrap outside of a pub/club, then adjust your body language, regardless of what you're saying... Put your hands up in the air as if to say "I don't want any trouble" even if you're insulting the other person as you do it... why? Because if it ends up in a court and CCTV is shown, regardless of whether or not you threw the first punch, you can clearly state you were trying to diffuse the situation (as shown with your body language) and that you only punched first in self defence. In other words, a con, the same as this "attempt to wrap" stuff...

Players now know that all they have to do is feign an attempt to wrap. The law, I assume was written with the perception that players would GENUINELY attempt to wrap, 90% or so would succeed with their attempt, the other 10% would not, but everyone tried their hardest so medals for all...

I seriously assume the law wasn't written with the stance that players could act out the moves of a wrap...

Of course I am not suggesting you are wrong by any means, I just find that law somewhat laughable...

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stroudos June 13, 2013 4:43 pm

That's a good tip!

I'm talking in general terms here, not referring to these Tongan tackles, but I think the problem is simply that tackles have become harder. When some of these blokes tackle, the "tacklee" is hit so hard that they bounce off, making it difficult for the tackler to actually grasp the player.

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matt June 13, 2013 5:19 pm

The law does seem to be strange, but if the law is wrong then change it, don't enforce it wrong.

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DrG June 14, 2013 1:14 pm

The problem is the law is not necessarily wrong, it is just the way in which players can exploit a loophole is wrong.

For instance, if tomorrow we change the law so that players HAVE to wrap, we will see more penalties for GENUINE "bounced off before I could wrap" tackles...

Then on the flip side, if we change the law so that there has to be no wrap, we will see more rugby league barge tackles.

So the law has to sit somewhere in the middle and assume that we are all honest gentleman who will play within the laws with integrity and honour..... in other words, TRY to wrap EVERY tackle....

What the law does NOT take into account, is the fact most of (second rows at least) are a bunch of nasty assholes who enjoy inflicting pain on others and love the fact the referee can not see what is going on beneath the rucks etc

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smashhulk June 13, 2013 12:18 am

The most disappointing thing is that the Pacific Islands export some fantastically skilled and physically powerful players, so they don't need the cheap shots. The high and late shots in this game are nothing more than cowardly. Just cos you're wearing rugby kit it doesn't mean you're allowed to be a thug.

Samoa have been a great example of how to develop their game with more control.

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Canadian content June 13, 2013 1:33 am

That's the unfortunate thing about their coaches reaction. As much as you can admire the players desire to stand up for each other, their ill discipline cost them this match, and the tackles were FOOLISH! They are an extremely talented team and do a disservce only to themselves calling out racism.


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JacoClaasen June 11, 2014 11:23 am

I agree. It has always been the case with regards to Tonga. They have no discipline, from the selectors, down to the coach, down to the players. And nothing is ever their fault.

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SamoaBaby June 13, 2013 3:52 am

that was sad, come on my tongan bros. let's rise above this bullsh*t and compete,
PNC is a joke comp and you guys just are at risk to coming last...

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weltot June 13, 2013 7:01 am

Seemingly we all agree that these tackles were illegal - now can anyone tell me how they are different to the two Richard Kahui tackles we've seen recently? On Israel Folau and Ben Tapuai?

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Barti June 13, 2013 7:52 am

The 1st punch is thrown out by Nathan Hirayama. ( 0:17-0:19).... how come the officials at the disciplinary hearing miss that when reviewing the video footage???

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Stubby June 16, 2013 6:48 am

Read the disciplinary reports. The Tongan #13 punched the Canadian #2 to start the whole mess.

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KingDong June 13, 2013 11:30 am

How can anyone defend these tackles? You need to lead with your arm when tackling, you don't need to wrap arms around, just lead with the arm.

Racism? Lol, more like amateurism on behalf of the Tongans

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KingDong June 13, 2013 11:36 am

Also unlucky on 1 white, when it was 13 white that started lashing out at everyone and anyone. Even after laying out the guy on the floor, he starts swinging at the next closest Canadian too.

Is their violence down to them being black too I wonder?

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DrG June 13, 2013 12:26 pm

If you read the reports, and listen to the referee, they actually felt white 1's offence was more serious due to it being AFTER the whole event and whilst a player was not looking.

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Italian ref June 13, 2013 12:41 pm

what a team of thugs! and the coach playing the racism card is just ridiculous.

the problem is probably coming from the coach. if he tollerates this then no wonder the players behave that way.

i may be old school but this crap has no place on a rugby pitch

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Sugarlump June 13, 2013 10:26 pm

Coz noone hit anyone in the olden days :¬/

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Sugarlump June 13, 2013 10:37 pm

The Tongans are Polynesian who aren't really black whereas the Fijians are Melanesian, they black!

Seems alot of people refer to themselves as black just because they are not white. I'm quite prepared to call myself pale pink to a light tan if it sorts out this racism issue.

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Sugarlump June 13, 2013 10:39 pm

Avoided the obvious pink to brown joke :¬P

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Moss June 15, 2013 1:28 pm

In Tonga's defense, it is fun to punch Canadians. ;)

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Canada rugby fan 1 June 16, 2013 12:42 am

Those Tongan guys aren't even black what's the coach talking about their brown hahah

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Hugo June 16, 2013 10:57 am

Really....? The "because we're black" arguement? That is just so lame

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DrG June 16, 2013 11:32 am

Least he didn't use the Chewbacca defence...

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Poly44 June 22, 2013 10:15 pm

It all started when the Tongan lock came in to ruck over, as the Canadian Hooker was taking him down, he was punching the Tongan fella, thus #13 coming in to the aid of his team mate. The coach uses the term "Black" because in NZ and OZ, there aren't too many black people there like it is here in Northern America(African Americans)
But I find it funny, that the Refs only saw TONGANS throwing punches....As if the Canucks had their hands behind their backs and acting innocent.

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JacoClaasen June 11, 2014 11:18 am

Dear Tonga, please do yourselves a favor and fire your national rugby coach. If he uses a race card for players sent off, for clearly illegal tackles, and cant see anything wrong with those tackles and cant teach discipline in the team, it reflects a lot about the employer of the coach. Just saying........

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