Sideline Champs: Stand-in ref head-butted

By Russell Blackstock

Parents rush children from field as blood runs after alleged attack by under-7s coach.

Ronan Hallahan agreed to act as referee of his son's match. Inset picture was taken shortly after the alleged attack by the coach. Photo / Michael Craig
Ronan Hallahan agreed to act as referee of his son's match. Inset picture was taken shortly after the alleged attack by the coach. Photo / Michael Craig

A junior rugby coach has been banned from his club after allegedly head-butting a stand-in referee at an under-7s match. It's claimed landscape gardener Bryce Reynolds, a coach with Helensville Rugby Club, assaulted Irish builder Ronan Hallahan after an exchange of words during a Rippa Rugby game against Kumeu last Saturday. Both men had sons playing in the same Helensville team.

Boys as young as 6 were ushered from the field by horrified parents as blood poured from Hallahan's face, witnesses said.

"There was a loud crack and when I looked up Ronan had blood streaming from his nose," Hallahan's wife, Tasha Keefe, said. "I waded in to stop things kicking off further and the boys were removed from the field. I was disgusted."

Still sporting two black eyes, Hallahan, 39, this week told the Herald on Sunday he was at the game to support his son, 6. He stepped in to referee after being asked by Reynolds, who was coaching the team.

"We had a difference of views about the way I was refereeing and the way he was coaching," Hallahan said. "Reynolds was right in my face and I was telling him to go away, when 'bang' - he suddenly just nutted me.

"I was stunned and fortunately I didn't react. I was aware there were 6-year-old boys on the field and I didn't want them to see any more violence.

"To do something like that in front of his son and mine was despicable and cowardly. I just asked him 'what the hell did you do that for?"'

The Helensville club called an emergency disciplinary meeting the next day. As a result, Reynolds was stripped of his coaching role and banned indefinitely from attending matches.

The club's junior chairman, Nick Mulvaney, said there was no option but to come down hard. "His behaviour was completely out of character. But we have codes in place and it was decided Bryce should stand down and also be banned from the ground," Mulvaney said.

"Bryce understands and accepts the situation. He is upset he will no longer be able to come and watch his son playing rugby, but we just can't have things like this happening at a kids' game."

Hallahan said Reynolds emailed and texted the team to apologise.

"The guy wasn't even man enough to apologise to me in person and that just angers me even more," he said. "I am from Ireland and was proud my son has been learning to play in New Zealand. What kind of example is that for young children?"

Hallahan said he had to take time off work because of his injuries and had reported Reynolds to police. Hallahan added his doctor had advised he will require surgery to fix his nose.

Reynolds could not be reached for comment. But his tearful wife Nicola confirmed he had been banned from the Helensville ground.

Helensville police said a complaint had been laid and they were investigating.

- Herald on Sunday

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