No punishment for Reds lock
Ed O'Donoghue (Getty Images)
Cape Town - Reds lock Ed O'Donoghue has been found not guilty of alleged eye-gouging in his side's Super Rugby loss to the Rebels at the weekend.
O'Donoghue was sent off following the intervention of the television match official (TMO) for an incident with Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham.
Television replays appeared to show O'Donoghue running his fingers over Higginbotham's eyes as both players wrestled with each other on the ground.
Referee Steve Walsh took advice from the TMO and sent O'Donoghue from the field and awarded the Rebels a penalty which fullback Jason Woodward converted for a 30-27 win.
However, a SANZAR judicial hearing on Monday found Ed O'Donoghue not guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (m) - Acts contrary to good sportsmanship.
No further sanction has been imposed on the player and the red card has been removed from his record.
The hearing was held via video conference and was heard by Advocate Jannie Lubbe, who was assisted by former professional player, Paul Thomson.
In his finding, Lubbe ruled the following:
"After careful consideration of all of the evidence, which included written and verbal submissions from the player, the player's representative, Martin Martin QC, Scott Higginbotham and match officials, I have found Mr O'Donoghue not guilty.
"My finding is supported by these witness statements, in conjunction with medical evidence supplied by the Rebels which indicated no damage had been inflicted upon Mr Higginbotham and furthermore, the player stated that he made no complaint to the referee.
"The act of eye gouging generally triggers a reaction from the victim which was not evident in this case and helped support my finding.
"Eye gouging is certainly a very serious and unacceptable offence in the game of rugby and any allegation warrants a thorough investigation.
"In this instance, having thoroughly reviewed video evidence from numerous angles and the considering witness testimony, I am satisfied that Mr O'Donoghue has not committed the act in question.
"No further sanction has been imposed on the player and the red card has been removed from his record."