O’Gara’s rush of blood proves costly as one-week ban rules Munster star out of vital cup clash
By Simon Lewis
Rugby and Golf Correspondent
There will be no Heineken Cup miracle match for Ronan O’Gara this weekend after the veteran fly-half picked up a one-week ban that rules him out of Sunday’s must-win final pool game with Racing Metro.
O’Gara, 34, the architect and executioner of so many of his province’s finest hours in European competition over the last 14 years, yesterday in Dublin paid the price for a rash swipe of his famous right boot to the back of Edinburgh lock Sean Cox’s legs during last Sunday’s round five game at Murrayfield.
It’s the first citing of O’Gara’s career and yesterday the Corkman appeared in front of independent judicial officer Jeff Blackett and entered a guilty plea to his contravention of Law 10.4(c), which pertains to the kicking of an opponent.
Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald and team manager Niall O’Donovan gave evidence and submissions on their player’s behalf and there were also submissions from the ERC disciplinary officer, Roger O’Connor, before Blackett deemed the misdemeanour a “petulant act which was out of character”.
He determined the act was at the lower end of the scale for which the punishment is a four-week suspension but O’Gara’s guilty plea and previous good disciplinary record earned a 50% reduction.
Furthermore, Blackett then determined that even a two-week suspension would be disproportionate and cited the fact O’Gara had been body-checked by Cox prior to the incident. That earned the Munster player a further week’s reduction.
Munster will not appeal the decision and have been preparing for the eventuality of O’Gara’s absence with Ian Keatley set to step in as they seek a bonus point win.
Racing will be without centre Fabrice Estebanez, who was given a four-week suspension yesterday for striking Saracens wing David Strettle.
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