Penalty for punch too light witness

By Corey Charlton


A witness has described a punch thrown during a colts' rugby game last month as a "gutless act of thuggery" and claims it deserves a much stronger penalty from the Hawke's Bay Rugby Judiciary.

The punch was thrown when the players were shaking hands after the game had finished, and broke the nose of 19-year-old Havelock North player Johnny Bristol.

The player who threw the punch, Hastings Rugby Club colts captain Enoka Chung Ching, was stood down until March 15, 2013, which would have little effect on his regular season fixtures.

The incident described was one of two instances of violence to occur in colts rugby games in July, which have sparked accusations the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union (HBRU) is not doing enough to stamp out violence within the grade.

A statement submitted by former sports journalist and witness Damon Harvey detailed what he saw.

"I was a witness to a gutless act of thuggery on Saturday [July 28] at Elwood Road, Hastings," the statement said.

"The game between Hastings and Havelock colts had finished and the teams were lined up and shaking hands. A Hastings player punched a Havelock player straight in the head and the player instantly fell to the ground. The guy I was walking alongside also saw the punch and was also disgusted in what he saw.

"I did not hear if anything was said before the punch but even if something was said, I still wouldn't condone this action.

"I have played rugby to senior level and have not seen acts like this after a game of rugby. The player that did [this] assault should be given a strong message that this type of action shouldn't be tolerated in the game."

Mr Harvey told Hawke's Bay Today he didn't know of, or support, any claims made regarding problems within the grade and considered the incident an isolated issue.

"I only came forward as a witness because I was disgusted in what I saw," he said. "Shaking hands is a part of the sportsmanship conduct of a game and throwing a blind punch isn't. This was a serious offence that deserved a much stronger penalty. The player should be told that this will not be tolerated and he should be stood down from all rugby for an extended period."

Hastings police are investigating an unrelated incident, in which Havelock North player Trent Heremaia was allegedly held and punched by several Taradale players on July 14.

He suffered a damaged eye socket, smashed front teeth and now required visits to an eye specialist. His father Thomas Heremaia previously claimed violence in the grade was "out of control".

Mr Chung Ching could not be reached for comment yesterday.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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