Why Leeds Rhinos’ Rhyse Martin’s ban was upheld despite appeal last night

Leeds Rhinos’ Rhyse Martin received a one-match ban for a high tackle on former teammate and now Castleford Tigers’ star Alex Mellor when the two teams met knowing that the victor would claim a place in the play-offs.

Leeds edged that game at the end with an Aidan Sezer try as Rhyse Martin kicked three goals which saw him equal Mason Lino’s Super League record for most consecutive goal kicks without missing. However, he was denied the chance to exceed that record or indeed chase the world record of 41 set by Liam Finn and Jamie Ellis by that one-match ban which saw him miss the play-off win over Catalans Dragons last week.

However, Leeds did all they could to try and make him available for that clash appealing the ban and many felt he had a good case after Mellor himself said the tackle didn’t warrant a ban. However, the appeal was deemed frivolous meaning Martin received another game added on to his suspension which would see him miss the semi-final against Wigan this weekend.

Wanting Martin back for a huge game especially with fellow backrow Morgan Gannon out with concussion whilst Mikolaj Oledzki, Harry Newman, David Fusitu’a and Aidan Sezer are all doubts, Leeds appealed this frivolous verdict but were unsuccessful last night.

In terms of why the appeal failed, an RFL spokesperson told Serious About Rugby League: “The tribunal had to consider whether last week’s tribunal had reached a reasonable conclusion. It was decided that the correct decision had been made.”

So, the panel had deemed that last week’s verdict was a “reasonable conclusion” seeing no need to overrule the decision which was reached on these grounds: “In the recent Leeds v Castleford match (3rd September) Rhyse Martin (RM) made contact with the head of an opponent when he (RM) was the second tackler and when he sought to wrap the opponent up following a lower tackle on that opponent by a teammate.

“The Match Review Panel (MRP) have reviewed that incident and determined that the tackle falls foul of Rule 15.1(b) – “When tackling or attempting to tackle makes contact with the head or neck of an opponent.”. The opponent was injured (bloody nose) and the MRP decided that the contact was the result of a careless act. The MRP were of the view that there was little real ‘dip’ by the ball carrier, there was a large target area below the head for RM to affect his tackle and RM’s arm was high in the tackle as he made contact directly with the opponent’s head. Hence, falling squarely within the descriptions of “Careless – ball carrier dips, any high tackle or strike with hand/arm … Careless – second tackler in, wrapping tackle up, any high tackle or strike with hand/arm.” Such an offence is Graded as A-B. The MRP assessed the offence as a Grade A offence and because of RM’s disciplinary record that assessment automatically led to the imposition of a 1 match suspension.

“RM now appeals against the finding of the MRP. Supported by his Coach he contends that his actions merit no more than a Caution. He points to the speed of the incident, the fact that the ball carrier went somewhat downwards in the initial tackle that was already being made and his intention was to do no more than ensure that the ball carrier was effectively wrapped up and unable to offload the ball.

“The Tribunal’s attention was drawn to two video clips from other games. The MRP drew attention to a tackle by James Roby which merited a Grade A finding without any suspension (it being said that that high secondary tackle was very similar to RM’s case, save for the fact that Roby’s good disciplinary record did not, unlike with RM, automatically trigger a suspension). RM drew attention to a 1on1 high tackle in a Catalans/Leeds match when the defending player was wrong footed and put his arm out into the face of the oncoming opponent. As with all comparative videos the Tribunal must of course concentrate upon the incident in question and not be unduly diverted by any other incident and finding. Having said that, the Roby video is in reality quite similar to RM’s tackle, whilst the Leeds/Catalans video shows a rather different set of circumstances.

“Although RM pleads for an outcome less than a suspension (namely for a Caution) that plea cannot realistically be translated by him into any proper application of the laws/rules. His argument really amounts to no more than a plea for some leniency as opposed to an exercise in applying the rules and laws of the game.

“The description within the laws/rules, as set out in paragraph 2 above, squarely describes RM’s case. It is impossible to describe or categorise his tackle in any other way or language. Inevitably therefore he falls foul here of Rule 15.1(b), “when tackling makes contact with the head of an opponent.” Not on an intentional or reckless basis but as a result of a culpable careless act.

“There can be no other outcome in these circumstances than a categorisation of this as a Grade A offence. The laws and rules allow for no other result. Moreover, given RM’s disciplinary record, that categorisation can only lead to a suspension. A Caution cannot be administered in his case (unlike the Roby case) because of that record.

“Finally, the Tribunal can only describe this appeal as being “unreasonable/frivolous” because it had no basis or merit to it within the rules and laws. It amounted to no more in reality than something of a general plea for clemency, perhaps motivated, in part or in whole, by an understandable wish to play in the important match that Leeds have this weekend. Given the unreasonable/frivolous nature of the appeal the Tribunal must therefore impose a further one match suspension in addition to the already imposed suspension for the Grade A offence.

“The £500 appeal bond is forfeited and a fine of £500 also must follow.”

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