Waikato prop Ben Tameifuna has been suspended from all rugby for five weeks for pushing referee Glen Jackson during Waikato's ITM Cup match against North Harbour at QBE Stadium last Saturday.
The incident happened in the 72nd minute of the match when Tameifuna, while defending the try line, pushed Jackson out of the way. Jackson was knocked off his feet but was not injured.
The three hour hearing, which was deferred to today after video conferencing issues yesterday, was held in Auckland with Judicial Officer Chris Morris hearing evidence from Tameifuna, Chiefs Coach Dave Rennie, the Waikato coaching and management team, match officials including Glen Jackson and viewing video footage of the incident.
In weighing up the evidence, Mr Morris noted that Tameifuna had apologised to Jackson immediately after the game and this was accepted. Mr Morris acknowledged the player was genuinely remorseful and had accepted his actions were inexcusable. Mr Morris also accepted the player's statement that he was focussed on defending the goal line and that moving the referee away from that line was an instinctive move that was motivated by playing the game, rather than by malicious intent.
He also took into account that Jackson had not taken issue with the incident and he did not believe the push to be maliciously intended.
"Having taking into account the evidence, the player's post-match apology to the referee, his full acknowledgement that his actions were inappropriate, I have endeavoured to impose a proportionate sanction taking into account other similar situations from overseas decisions," he said.
"However it is imperative that players instinctively know that it is never, under any circumstances, appropriate for a player to abuse, verbally or physically, a match official."
"Taking all those factors into account, I find that a suspension of five weeks is appropriate and proportionate to the offending. Ben Tameifuna is banned immediately from all rugby up to and including 5 October."