Big ban as old school punch up from suspected gouge spills over after red card
Cyprus lock Billy Cosma has been handed a five-week ban after being found guilty of physical abuse during a Rugby Europe Conference 1 South against Bulgaria.
The incident took place in the 79th minute at the Cyprus Sports Association stadium in Nicosia on May 13, as Cosma reacted to contact around his head in a maul. Cyprus led 35-17 at that point, and went on to win by the same margin.
Cosma faced an independent Disciplinary Panel via a video conference call on May 18, 2023. The panel, chaired by Gert-Mark Smelt, consisted of Palemia Field and Rory Bannerman.
The disciplinary hearing centred on an infringement of Law 9.12, which pertains to physical abuse. Cosma, who represented the Cyprus Rugby Union, appeared before the panel alongside his representative, David Lee.
The incident resulted in a red card being issued to Cosma. The referee’s report stated that Cosma punched his opponent forcefully and directly in the face with a closed hand.
Video footage of the incident showed a maul situation where Cosma’s opponent, Kostadin Petkov, had his left arm around Cosma’s neck and repeatedly moved his right arm toward Cosma’s head and face. In response, Cosma turned his head and body away from the opponent but subsequently executed a low punching movement with his right arm, connecting with the opponent’s head. The two players fell to the ground together. After being shown the red card, Cosma pointed at the opponent and approached him, resulting in a brief altercation where Cosma attempted to pour water from his water bottle over the opponent’s head.
Additional evidence was presented through a medical statement provided by the Cyprus Rugby Union. The statement highlighted that the opponent sought medical treatment after the game, receiving stitches above his eye due to a deep tear. As a result, the injured player is unable to participate in future games and training sessions.
During the hearing, Cosma admitted to punching his opponent and acknowledged that his actions constituted foul play warranting a red card. He further explained that his reaction was directly prompted by the opponent’s attempted eye gouging earlier in the match. Cosma reported the incident to the referee but took matters into his own hands when the eye gouging persisted. He clarified that the altercation remained on the field and that he and the opponent had shaken hands after the match, with no subsequent contact.
Based on the evidence presented, the Disciplinary Panel concluded that Cosma did indeed punch his opponent in the head. However, they found, on the balance of probabilities, that his actions were a reaction to the opponent’s repeated attempts to make contact with Cosma’s eyes. The opponent had reached for Cosma’s head three times during the incident.
As a result of the hearing, Cosma has been suspended from all rugby activities for a period of five weeks. The ban serves as a disciplinary measure to address the physical abuse committed during the match. The suspension will prevent Cosma from participating in any rugby-related events until the designated period has elapsed.
The ruling emphasises the importance of maintaining discipline and respect within the sport and serves as a reminder to players to adhere to the regulations and spirit of the game.
Take a look at the incident: