Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Tana Umaga gets suspended ban

Counties Manukau coach Tana Umaga. Photo / Dean Purcell
Counties Manukau coach Tana Umaga. Photo / Dean Purcell

Counties Manukau coach Tana Umaga has escaped any major sanction following a misconduct hearing today for abusing referee Glen Jackson after his side's 22-20 loss to Auckland at Eden Park on September 4.

It was alleged that Umaga abused Jackson in the tunnel after the game and then entered the officials' changing room where he continued his tirade before he was eventually removed.

Umaga also made headlines following the game when he suggested Jackson only refereed one side during the contest and his team had been hard done by.

The former All Blacks skipper was today given a suspended two-match ban after he appeared before independent judicial officer Chris Morris and the ban will only come into effect in the event he is the subject of any similar misconduct during this year's ITM Cup.

Essentially, Umaga has got off without punishment, which is a curious outcome.

Counties won the Ranfurly Shield for the first time when they beat Hawkes Bay 27-24 last Saturday and the Steelers host Taranaki in their first defence in Pukekohe on Sunday afternoon.

Any ban would have likely seen Umaga barred from Counties' most important game of the season and would have created a stir.

Counties released a brief statement this evening where Umaga again expressed his remorse for the incident: "I value my role as a coach and a leader and have learned from this situation. It is important that I learn quickly from my mistakes to improve and develop as a coach,'' the statement read.

"I am pleased the hearing is over so I can to turn my attentions to keeping the Ranfurly Shield on Sunday.''

Umaga can consider himself very lucky.

England's Dylan Hartley was banned for 11 weeks this year when he called referee Wayne Barnes a cheat and was forced to miss the British and Irish Lions' tour of Australia, while Italian captain Sergio Parisse was also red carded this year when he made comments to a referee during a Top 14 game.

South African Super Rugby outfit the Stormers were slapped with a A$25,000 (NZD$28,464) fine when they were found guilty of abusing an assistant referee during their 18-16 win over the Hurricanes in Palmerston North in April.

- NZ Herald

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