The Melbourne Rebels are considering their options after fiery lock Adam Byrnes was rubbed out of Super Rugby for 10 weeks following an eye-gouging complaint by the NSW Waratahs.
In a dramatic aftermath to what was a spiteful local derby at AAMI Park, Byrnes was suspended until round 13 of the competition following a four-and-a-half-hour judicial hearing on Sunday afternoon.
The Russian World Cup forward was cited after Waratahs skipper Daniel Halangahu made an on-field report that Byrnes had gouged centre Tom Carter in a 27th-minute ruck during Friday night’s 35-19 loss.
While it’s understood the Rebels argued there was no intent by the second-rower, judicial officer Paul Tully ruled that Carter had received a minor scratch from contact.
Tully reviewed extensive video evidence and considered written submissions by Carter and Waratahs doctor Luke Inman.
“There was sufficient evidence to support that contact had been made with the right eye and bridge of the nose,” he ruled.
Byrnes was left disappointed by the ruling and Rebels officials immediately started assessing their options to appeal on Sunday night.
The entry point of such an offence is 12 weeks but two weeks credit was given to Byrnes for his otherwise unblemished record – meaning he will be sidelined until the Rebels meet the Western Force on May 20.
It immediately leaves the Rebels’ big-man stocks light on in depth for Saturday night’s clash with defending champions Queensland, who boast Wallabies locks James Horwill and Rob Simmons and two other lineout options in Radike Samo and Jake Schatz.
The second-placed Reds are coming off a 35-20 victory over the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium to be the only Australian team to have won their first two matches.
But coach Ewen McKenzie said he’ll be addressing his defence after David Pocock and James Stannard strolled through for two soft tries within five minutes to come back from 26-6 down.
Force coach Richard Graham continued to lament a host of early-season breakdown penalties which has led to conservative tactics.
“There’s certainly some confusion in that area of the game and a lack of consistency,” he said.
“You have to play at the right end of the field at the moment until you get an appreciation for it.”
The Reds are one of four teams to have won both their opening matches, with the Pretoria-based Bulls (9) heading the table thanks to their 51-19 demolition of the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
The Bulls became the only team to notch a four-try bonus point this season with the performance, and still managed to cross two more times after Francois Hougaard was sent off for a dangerous tackle in the 63rd minute.
The Stormers sit third after a late penalty goal from the sideline by Peter Grant sunk the Sharks 15-12 in the other South African derby in Cape Town.
The shocks have been contained to the New Zealand conference where the Highlanders (8) are again early-season surprise-packets after upsetting the Crusaders 27-24 in a high-quality affair in Dunedin.
The Chiefs also pulled off a 29-14 boilover against the Blues in Hamilton on Friday night, while the Hurricanes overcame the Johannesburg-based Lions 30-28 in a thriller where the lead changed eight times.