By Ali Stokes
Wallaby centurion George Smith has been cleared of his citing following Bristol Bears' Premiership defeat to Saracens last Saturday, in which the openside flanker was handed a red card in the 47th minute.
Smith contested the allegations of a dangerous (high) tackle on Saracens' no7 Jackson Wray, after reviewing the footage of the incident the panel dismissed the citing, stating that there was no conclusive proof of contact to Wray's head.
Smith is clear to play for Bristol with immediate effect, with their next fixture coming in the third round of Gallagher Premiership action away to Gloucester this Friday.
The panel was chaired by Gareth Graham (practising barrister and former player), with Jamie Corsi (former Scarlets prop) and Olly Kohn (former Welsh international lock) alongside him.
Panel chair Gareth Graham said: “The independent panel had the benefit of viewing this incident from a number of different angles. The footage did not clearly show whether or not there was direct contact between the player and the head of Jackson Wray.
"The player explained his actions in detail and assisted the panel by demonstrating how the tackle had been carried out. He demonstrated how the position of the ball was important as to how the tackle situation developed, as it created an effect whereby it caused Wray to bounce backwards in the collision.
"The panel concluded on the balance of probabilities that the initial contact did not involve any direct contact to the head of Jackson Wray. Wray was off-balance in the tackle and the force of the tackle and the effect of the ball being between the two players caused Wray’s head to ‘whip’ backwards.
"On Wray’s own evidence, there was then a glancing contact to the underneath of his chin which was incidental to an otherwise legitimate tackle. In the panel’s view, and taking into account all of its rugby experience, that glancing contact did not pass the red card threshold.”
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