THE British and Irish Lions were left nursing a deep sense of grievance yesterday after Australia captain James Horwill was cleared of stamping during his side’s 23-21 loss in Saturday’s first Test in Brisbane.
The 28-year-old lock was cited for allegedly stamping or trampling on Lions counterpart Alun-Wyn Jones early in the match at Suncorp Stadium.
But judicial officer Nigel Hampton said in a statement after the hearing in Melbourne: “After hearing all the evidence I could not find that when James Horwill’s right foot came into glancing contact with Alun-Wyn Jones’ face, that he [Horwill] was acting recklessly.
“I found that I could not reject as being implausible or improbable Horwill’s explanation that as he was driving forward with his right leg raised he was spun off balance through the impact of Lions players entering the ruck from the opposite side.
“In an endeavour to regain his balance Horwill brought his right leg to the ground unknowing that Alun-Wyn Jones’ head was in that area, due to having his sight impeded by the presence of Michael Hooper and Tom Croft, who were beneath him and over the top of Alun-Wyn Jones.”
The decision means Horwill will be free to play in the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday, a match which his side must win to keep the three-match series alive.
Jones required stitches in his eye following the match, Lions coach Warren Gatland said in a news conference earlier yesterday. “The feeling from us is that it needed to be referred to the citing commission to have a look and for him to make a decision,” said the coach.
“For me, I played in the days when rucking was allowed and I’ve still got a few scars that bear the witness of some decent ruckings that I had. But the head was sacrosanct and you stayed away from that.”