It has been reported that an independent disciplinary panel on behalf of the ERC has handed out a whopping £215,000 fine to Harlequins and banned Tom Williams, their winger, for 12 months.
If you’ve seen the incident that was the cause of this investigation in the Heineken Cup quarter-final it seemed fairly clear what happened at the match and that some form of sanction was warranted.
For those who haven’t observed the event essentially Harlequins’ two fly-halves, Nick Evans and Chris Malone, were injured during the match leaving the Quins side with the shaky kicking form of full-back Mike Brown to rely on to get them into the semis. Tom Williams had come on as a replacement in the 69th minute and then left the field in the 75th minute with a blood injury.
As Williams left the field he winked at the Harlequins bench, an action which was caught on camera, which implied he perhaps wasn’t really injured at all. Although Evans had left the field in some discomfort in the first half, the fact that his injury had been marked as a “tactical” one meant he was allowed to return to the fray as a blood substitution.
Despite Leinster’s protestations Evans returned to the field and duly missed the dropped goal attempt that would probably have clinched the game for Quins.
Whilst the actions of Harlequins and Williams were reprehensible, if he did have a cut to his mouth then the substitution was, at worst, gamesmanship but within the laws. If he faked the injury and a blood capsule was used then he and the team had cheated. Which of those two scenarios is correct has not yet been revealed.
However, even if the latter were true, does it warrant a 12-month ban for the player? Is the team fine understandable?
Any thoughts or opinions would be much appreciated.