A Wellington club rugby side has been banned from a sevens tournament for the next three years after a brawl sent an opponent to hospital in scenes described by one referee as "the most disgusting thing I have never witnessed on a rugby field".
The Wellington Rugby Football Union banned Marist St Pats from the Ambassador's Sevens Tournament after a disciplinary hearing.
Marist St Pats player Iosefo Aukustino was banned for two years, and Sagele Aukustino for one. Both were handed heavy suspensions from all rugby. Jeremiah Tuiatua was also banned for five matches.
According to the hearing, the victim is still "suffering significant effects" from serious facial injuries.
The young man, seen as a rising star of the game, was playing for Petone against Marist St Pats (MSP) during Wellington Rugby's annual American Ambassador's Sevens tournament at Maidstone Park on November 14.
One of his teammates is understood to have used an elbow on an MSP player, provoking a response from the opposition.
When the player tried to intervene, he was punched, knocked to the ground unconscious and suffered a seizure. Witness accounts told the disciplinary committee that he was then kicked in the head while on the ground.
The 18-year-old suffered numerous fractures around his eye socket, severe swelling and a serious concussion. The Herald has agreed not to name the player.
Three MSP players were sent off and the club was disqualified from the tournament. Petone elected not to continue. A number of teammates accompanied the injured man to seek medical attention, along with his mother, who had watched from the sideline.
In the hearing, one referee said: "I have never seen anything like this. It was pure thuggery".
Another added it was bad enough for him to consider his future in rugby.
A senior player from another club told the Herald he saw the young player hit from behind and attacked while he lay on the ground.
"It was the most vicious and dog-pack-mentality act I've seen in any game," he said.
"It was honestly the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in rugby."
Wellington Rugby CEO Matt Evans said last year the union had offered support to the family and the clubs involved.
"We strongly condemn any form of violence in our game and are extremely disappointed anytime something like this occurs. Our immediate thoughts are with the injured player and ensuring he has the necessary support around him as he recovers from his injuries," said Evans.