Head-high tackles are banned in rugby, but on this occasion the referee made an exception.
Johnsonville Rugby Club chairman and referee Mike Segetin was walking down the main street of the northern Wellington suburb about 1.30pm yesterday when he noticed a man being chased by someone who was yelling and screaming at him.
A few minutes later, near the post office, he heard yelling again, and a car roared up beside him chasing the man.
As the man ran past him, Mr Segetin instinctively hit him with a head-high tackle, knocking him to the ground.
He discovered the man had been seen stealing a bottle of Jagermeister from a nearby bottle store and had been chased out by customers.
Mr Segetin detained the man with the help of the customers for about five minutes before the police arrived.
"I definitely would have red-carded myself," he said of the tackle. "If someone had videoed it, it would be the main attraction on The Crowd Goes Wild. It was definitely a ‘smashed 'em bro' moment."
The manager of the Cellar Room, James Cupit, said he was thankful to Mr Segetin and the customers.
One customer had seen the man put the bottle into his jacket and chased him out of the store. "He chased after him and that's all I knew until the police brought back my bottle."
Senior Sergeant Brett Callander, of Johnsonville, said an 18-year-old man had been charged with theft and would appear in court next week.
When police arrived, he was lying in the recovery position and was checked out by an ambulance crew.
Apprehending him had been a great community effort, Mr Callander said.
"We really rely on people helping us, being our eyes and ears, and sometimes our arms as well."
- © Fairfax NZ News