The Taranaki Rugby Football Union and New Zealand Rugby have launched an investigation into a violent all-in brawl allegedly involving players, coaches and supporters of two top Taranaki premier club teams last weekend.
The incident occurred after a late penalty lifted Spotswood United to a 17-15 upset win over fierce rivals Tukapa.
Sources told the Herald after the game-winning penalty was converted, a Spotswood player got in the face of a member of the opposition, who responded by pushing him.
The initial encounter fizzled out quickly, before the teams kicked off again during the post-match handshakes.
The Herald understands it turned into a brawl with players, coaches and spectators involved - though it is still unclear who exactly threw punches. At this stage, two players from each team who were believed to be at the heart of the incident have been stood down and will face the judiciary, while more may join them when the investigation wraps up, Taranaki Rugby Football Union community rugby manager Cole Brown told the Herald.
No one appeared to have been injured as a result of the fight as referees were able to break it up.
Evidence and statements are now being collected by the union to determine the nature of the incident and just how many people were involved. Legal advice and experts have been sought to ensure the investigation, which is being supported by New Zealand Rugby, is thorough and fair.
Brown said it was a rare incident and one there was no place for in the game.
"We are taking allegations very seriously and this behaviour has no place in our game. As custodians of the game, we have a duty to all our people and the community to ensure the correct process is adhered to," he said.
"We take pride in having a clean product of club rugby for everyone to enjoy and this is unprecedented in Taranaki."
The investigation was expected to be carried out by the end of next week, with disciplinary hearings to follow.
It's not the first time Tukapa have been involved in a brawl at the premier level.
In 2015, a fight broke out between them and their counterparts from the Clifton club, with five people between the two clubs fronting a judicial hearing as a result.
In that case, four of the five involved were handed at least two-week suspensions, while the other was not punished due to insufficient evidence against him.
In what has been a disappointing week for club rugby around the country, Wellington and former Hurricanes player James O'Reilly on Wednesday apologised for taking an illicit substance after a club game.
O'Reilly, who has played 12 times at hooker for the Hurricanes, was stood down by NZR for serious misconduct after he admitted using the substance in late May at a Hutt Old Boys Marist event.
Police are investigating the incident.