Rugby: Cowan cleared after harsh red

By Steve Deane

All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan has been cleared to resume playing for the Highlanders after a disciplinary hearing ruled he should not have been sent off against the Blues on Friday night.

Cowan was dismissed by referee Stuart Dickinson after levelling Jimmy Gopperth in the in-goal area but Sanzar judicial officer Bruce Squire ruled that he should have been given a yellow card at most.

Squire said the tackle was "not late despite the referee's view of it".

Video footage revealed the tackle was made less than a second after Gopperth had kicked the ball.

In addition, the point of contact was at Gopperth's chest level and the only culpable feature Squire found was Cowan's failure to use his arms to make the tackle.

Highlanders coach Glenn Moore said he was satisfied with the decision. Cowan was always committed to the tackle, the tackle was not high, and the player had shown intent to use his arms, he said.

The Chiefs also had positive news on the judiciary front, with both centre Richard Kahui and prop James McGougan avoiding suspensions.

McGougan was cited for alleged trampling in the 58th minute of Sunday's victory over the Cheetahs in Kimberley, while centre Kahui was in the dock for a dangerous tackle on Frans Viljoen.

McGougan pleaded guilty to the trampling, which was penalised at the time by referee Nathan Pearce. Sanzar judicial officer Jannie Lubbe issued a reprimand and decided to take no further action.

Kahui, cited for an alleged "spear" tackle, pleaded not guilty and was cleared. The defence presented footage of the incident that was not available to the citing commissioner at the time.

Lubbe said that a review of the evidence found there was no lifting of the player and driving of him into the ground. Kahui was therefore not guilty.

But the competition leaders will will have to do without Brendon Leonard for the foreseeable future after the influential halfback suffered a chest injury.

Leonard could be out for up to six weeks after injuring his sternoclavicular joint just before halftime in the 28-10 win over the bottom-placed Cheetahs at Kimberley.

The sternoclavicular joint is where the collarbone connects to the sternum.

Coach Ian Foster said it was difficult to predict a recovery time, and Leonard could be out for between two and six weeks.

He will remain with the Chiefs in South Africa and his condition will be further assessed this week.

Despite failing to snare a bonus point against the Cheetahs, the Chiefs did enough to top the Super 14 ladder on points differential from the Sharks.

They now travel to Pretoria to take on the third-placed Bulls, who have returned to South Africa after a two-win, three-loss Australasian tour.

- additional reporting by NZPA

- NZ Herald

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