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20th Jan 2024

“Bloody accident” – Rugby legends react to red card for horrific Finlay Bealham incident

Patrick McCarry

Finlay Bealham

Connacht were leading at the time, but their cause was made much easier by this.

Finlay Bealham was unlucky and, in another, important way, very fortunate during a scary incident at The Sportsground, on Friday night.

Connacht defeated Bristol Bears and claimed a try-scoring bonus point in the process, helping their slim chances of reaching the Champions Cup knock-out stages. Playing at the newly renamed ‘Dexcom Stadium’, the Westerners put in a great showing against a Bristol side led by their old boss, Pat Lam.

Connacht were 5-0 up, 13 minutes in, when Bealham needed medical attention after an incident around a ruck. The Ireland international had been on the Bears side of a ruck, lying prone and waiting for a chance to roll away, when lock Josh Caulfield tried to hurdle him.

Kyle Sinckler was already attempting a ruck clear-out and Caulfield adjusted to avoid his legs but, horrifically, came thumping down with his studs catching the side of Bealham’s face.

Jim Hamilton and Nick Easter on Finlay Bealham incident

Following a number of big screen replays, and consultation with the Television Match Official, the referee deemed while the Josh Caulfield stamp on Finlay Bealham was not intentional, it had been reckless.

Caulfield was gutted at the decision but did turn back to apologise to Bealham before leaving the field of play. The tight-head was able to play on, after some treatment, and lasted until the 54th minute.

Former Saracens and Scotland forward Jim Hamilton highlighted the clip and stated the stamp was ‘a bloody accident’ while former England No.8 Nick Easter agreed that a red card was ‘a poor call’.

Josh Caulfield cleared to play again

UPDATE: The EPCR has released a statement on the Josh Caufield red card. It reads:

‘The Bristol Bears second row, Josh Caulfield, has had his red card overturned following an independent Disciplinary Hearing arising from his club’s Investec Champions Cup, Round 4 match against Connacht Rugby at the Dexcom Stadium.

‘Caulfield was sent off by the referee, Pierre Brousset (France), in the 13th minute of the match for stamping on the Connacht Rugby prop, Finlay Bealham, in contravention of Law 9.12 –  A player must not stamp on an opponent Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.12, stamping or trampling, carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 6 weeks; Top end: 12 to 52 weeks.

An independent Disciplinary Committee comprising Paul Thomas (Wales), Chair, Marcello D’Orey (Portugal) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa) viewed footage of the incident and heard evidence by video conference from Caulfield who did not accept that he had committed an act of foul play. The committee also heard submissions from the player’s legal representative, Sam Jones.

Also present on the conference call were the Bristol Bears Director of Rugby, Pat Lam, the Bristol Bears Team Manager, Jack Targett, and the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan. The committee determined that Caulfield had committed an act of foul play, however, it found that the offence did not warrant a red card, and the red card decision was therefore overturned. Caulfield is free to play immediately and EPCR has the right to appeal the decision.

Connacht took advantage of their extra man and were 17-3 up at the break, after tries from Jack Augnier and Caolin Blade.

An Andrew Smith try, in the second half, secured the bonus point. Connacht will only advance if Saracens lose their home game to Lyon, and do not pick up any sort of bonus point.

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