Auckland - Samoa fullback Paul Williams has escaped a ban after a World Cup judicial officer ruled Saturday that his slap to South Africa flanker Heinrich Brussow's face was on the lower end of the scale for a striking charge.
Williams was given a red card by Welsh referee Nigel Owens with 10 minutes remaining on Friday night in a torrid 13-5 loss to defending champion South Africa. It was the first red card of the tournament.
Replays showed Brussow punching Williams repeatedly in the arms, trying to break free of his grip at a breakdown as he appealed for a penalty.
When he got to his feet, Williams shoved Brussow in the face with an open hand before the Springboks flanker flipped onto his back on the ground.
Williams pleaded guilty to foul play at a hearing in Auckland on Saturday afternoon with Rugby World Cup judicial officer Christopher Quinlan of England.
In a statement, RWC organizers said Quinlan concluded the offense was at the lower end of the scale of seriousness and that there were compelling, mitigating factors.
"In particular he determined that the strike was an open-handed push, the contact was not heavy and there was no adverse effect on the victim player or the match," the statement said.
Quinlan ruled that no further sanction was necessary and Williams was free to play immediately. It will be too late for Samoa, who only have a tiny mathematical chance of advancing at the World Cup.