Ban for rugby fan, player incited 'escalation'

A Wellington rugby player knocked out by a spectator had sprinted 40 metres and leapt into a fight before being felled, a witness says.

The fan was banned from the game for five years after he ran on to the field and knocked out a player at Helston Park on June 21. The match was called off after the brawl erupted.

Colin McIntosh, who was watching the under-85-kilogram clash between Johnsonville and Hutt Old Boys Marist, said: "The match had been somewhat niggly up to the flashpoint.

"However, the incident started after a scuffle had broken out deep inside the Hutt Old Boys Marist's half. While the play continued, the referee had his back to the incident.

"The Johnsonville [player] ran from his own half and literally flung himself into the scuffle with raised knees and elbows, thus provoking an escalation.

"This particular player continued to throw a series of punches. It was at this point the spectator entered the scene and punched the offending [player] to the ground."

McIntosh said he was not condoning the actions of the spectator, who ran on "like an idiot".

"But this player . . . must have sprinted 40 metres. There was no need to get involved at all."

He urged the Wellington Rugby Football Union to take action against players, as well as spectators, "who spoil the game through sheer violence".

The spectator was banned from attending or playing in any rugby match organised by Wellington Rugby for five years.

He will still be able to attend test matches, ITM Cup and Super Rugby games, as they are under New Zealand Rugby and Sanzar jurisdiction.

Hutt Old Boys Marist chairman John Sheehan said neither the spectator nor a reserve who got involved should have been on the field.

"If they had stayed where they were supposed to, we would have been looking at a normal yellow card."

WRFU amateur rugby manager Will Caccia-Birch said the player who was knocked out had not laid charges.

Players were taught about fair play from a young age, and a "very robust" judicial system was in place.

"The WRFU reiterates that it will not tolerate foul play on the field, and any type of behaviour that jeopardises the safety of anyone involved in rugby is certainly not tolerated by match officials, or the union.

"This is reflected in the sanctions handed down by the judicial committee."

The Dominion Post