A young soldier died after receiving a blunt-force head injury while playing in a "troop versus troop" rugby league match, the coroner has found.

Lieutenant Samuel Andrew Scott died in the intensive care unit of Wellington Hospital on August 6, 2014.

Two days earlier, the 21-year-old Feilding-based army officer was injured during a match organised by Linton Military Camp staff.

Coroner Carla na Nagara found Scott received the fatal head injury when he was "bunted or bumped" off a player he was tackling.


The incident occurred in a well-controlled, competitive game, she said.

"The exact circumstances of the tackle cannot be established, but I am satisfied on the basis of the evidence before me that the tackle was legally made, and legally defended."

Scott was playing at centre and had already scored two tries before receiving the fatal head injury.

The other player involved in the incident saw Scott lining him up and decided to run at him after realising he didn't have the speed to beat him, Nagara wrote in her findings.

The ball carrier was protecting the ball with his arms and felt his arms hit Scott, he believed in the shoulder and neck area.

"I saw Sam fall backwards, he fell straight back and hit the back of his head on the ground. I continued to run over him. My knee or another part of my body may have connected with him as I drove over him, but I'm not sure," the man told Nagara.

The only other witness to the tackle said he did not see which part of the player's body struck Scott.

Following the impact, a disoriented but conscious Scott was checked by a soldier trained as a combat life saver, and complained of a sore knee but rubbed his elbow.


He was able to stand, but had to be helped from the field. His breathing was initially normal, but within minutes it had become laboured and he had begun convulsing.

A decision was made to move him to the army hospital, but when a second convulsion began emergency services were called.

A doctor arrived after five minutes and his care was continued until an ambulance took him to Palmerston North Hospital, after which he was flown to Wellington Hospital.

It was discovered there Scott had suffered a serious brain injury. Despite surgery, the effect of the injury was irreversible, the coroner found.

Active care was withdrawn and Scott died without regaining consciousness.

Scott's father raised concerns that the initial seriousness of his son's injury was not appreciated by those at the game, and that the defence of Scott's tackle was illegal.

But Nagara said the weight of the evidence was that it was not.

She also found those who helped Scott realised immediately that he was injured.

"Appropriate and timely assistance was rendered."