Cronulla star Dale Finucane failed to overturn a dangerous contact charge, but had a small win in a surprise twist at the NRL judiciary.
Finucane was whacked with a grade three dangerous contact charge for a tackle on Penrith centre Stephen Crichton, in which the latter’s left ear was lacerated badly.
Crichton was left needing stitches and consulting a plastic surgeon, but the tackle went unpenalised at the time.
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The match review committee saw it differently and charged Finucane. He could have accepted a two-game suspension, but chose to plead not guilty at the judiciary.
He argued his case in front of judiciary chair Geoff Bellew and panel members Dallas Johnson and Bob Lindner on Tuesday night.
After almost two hours, there was a unanimous decision of guilty, which resulted in a three-game ban.
But Finucane’s team pulled a cunning ploy and then challenged the grading of the charge, trying to reduce it from three to one.
After another half-hour of arguments and deliberation, the panel agreed to downgrade it to two, resulting in a two-game ban.
Earlier, he had explained the contact was a head clash, rather than his shoulder contacting Crichton’s head.
“I felt the contact with the left side of my face make contact with the left side of Stephen Crichton’s face and that’s the only contact I felt,” Finucane told the panel.
“I didn’t feel any contact with my shoulder and his face.
“The objective was to limit the amount of metres they could make on the field by getting to the player that was isolated.
“It’s not standard tackling to try and do that and as I said it wasn’t my intention to make head to head contact. But the pivot motion and lowering of the leg by Stephen Crichton led to the collision.”
Finucane’s legal representative, Nick Ghabar, argued the fact Crichton lowered his height before the impact made the tackle look worse.
“He bends his left leg forward. He can’t get any lower to make an effective tackle,” Ghabar said of Finucane.
“There is nothing in respect that he could have done to avoid the tackle. That’s what he told you.
“You will note that there is no referee report in front of you. The referee saw this as nothing more than the head clash, which is an accepted risk of playing rugby league.”
Finucane will miss Cronulla’s games against the Rabbitohs and Dragons.
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