Ulster have a duty to appeal Jared Payne red card
It won’t give them a second shot at Saracens, alas, but they owe it to the player, themselves and the game
The ERC press release accompanying the decision to suspend Jared Payne for the tackle against Alex Goode of Saracens that resulted in the Ulster fullback’s red card came with the wording that Payne had been red-carded for “an alleged dangerous charge (sic)”, rather than tackling, tapping, pushing or pulling. This was, effectively, a new one. Photograph: Brian Little/Inpho/Presseye
Here’s a question. Supposing Jared Payne and Alex Goode made the exact same runs as when they collided last Saturday week in Ravenhill, which resulted in Goode being stretchered off and Payne being sent off; the only difference being that Payne’s head collided with, say, Goode’s hip, and it was Payne who was stretchered off.
Does anyone for a moment think Jerome Garces would have brandished a red card at Payne as he was stretchered off? Or, even more ridiculously, that having been stretchered off and sent off, Payne would then have received a two-week ban, as was the case last week when an ERC- appointed independent judicial officer, Simon Thomas of Wales, decreed Payne be suspended for two weeks.
Payne was sent off in contravention of IRB Law 10.4(i), which states that “tackling, tapping, pushing or pulling an opponent jumping for the ball in open play” is worthy of a red card. Yet Garces’ eventual interpretation of the fifth-minute incident was that Payne had committed “a dangerous tackle”.
But, patently, Payne did not make a tackle. Nor did he tap, push, or pull Goode. At all times he had his eyes on the ball and his arms and hands were poised solely for a catch.
Interestingly, the ERC press release accompanying the decision to suspend Payne came with the wording that the Ulster fullback had been red-carded for “an alleged dangerous charge (sic)”, rather than tackling, tapping, pushing or pulling.
This was, effectively, a new one. This was the first example of a player being red-carded for accidentally colliding with an opposing player as they contested a high ball, when not demonstrating a sufficient “duty of care” to his opponent.
If a “duty of care” entails a player having to leave the ground as well, or watch his opponents as well as the ball, then fine. So be it. Let the IRB make that clear. But let’s not make it up on the hoof.
Part of the secret of a player’s success in winning a high ball, after all is, as the cliché goes, they only have eyes for the ball!
It was a hell of a time to come up with a new interpretation, for this is far more than a case of a player being victimised by a new interpretation of the game’s laws. At a stroke, Ulster were severely handicapped in their pursuit of a home semi-final.
That would have earned the IRFU a €450,000 ERC bonus payment and €300,000 for Ulster hiring out the Aviva Stadium, and an estimated €20 million for the Irish economy.