England and Saracens flyhalf Zoe Harrison has been given a short ban after she pleaded guilty to act of ‘Contrary to Good Sportsmanship’ at an RFU disciplinary hearing.
Harrison was cited for pulling the hair of an Ealing Trailfinders Women’s player in a Premiership Women’s Rugby match on 25 November. The 25-year-old received a yellow card for the incident in the 36th minute of the match.
The case was heard on papers by an independent disciplinary panel chaired by Daniel Gore. The written transcript of the incident reads: “Trailfinders had a scrum in the centre of the field just outside their own 22m line. They retreated in the scrum legally and Trailfinders No.8 picked up the ball from the base and carried hard forward. As the Trailfinders No.8 is tackled, the ball is offloaded to Trailfinders 12 who makes a line break.
“Saracens 10 [Zoe Harrison] turns and chases to attempt to make the tackle and reaches out her arms. In this reaching to make the tackle, the left hand of Saracens 10 grabs the hair of Trailfinders 12. The head of Trailfinders 12 visibly jerks back due to the grip of Saracens 10 on the hair of Trailfinders 12, and this grab enables her to make the tackle with the right arm of Saracens 10 wrapping around the waist and top of thighs of Trailfinders 12 to finish the tackle. The grip upon the hair of Trailfinders 12 was not released immediately, and it did affect the tackle, contributing to the action of taking the ball carrier to the ground. Therefore, the incident is cited.”
Harrison admitted to the offence, stating in written testimony that: “As they break, I notice I am unable to affect the first tackle, as my centre comes across and completes the tackle. I, therefore, realize there is a gap in our defensive line as they offload, and I have to turn quickly to make a tackle.”
“I realize I am unable to set and complete a tackle as I have been taught, so I attempt to grasp Ealing 12’s jersey from behind, below her shoulder. She is traveling at speed, and I initially miss her jersey and slip-off. In an attempt to re-grasp her jersey, I realize that I inadvertently grab her hair. This was never my intention as I was expecting to grasp her jersey. This all happens in less than two seconds – I only realize once I feel the resistance on her hair, when I then immediately let go and make a legal tackle around the waist, which brings Ealing 12 to the ground. I apologized to Ealing 12 and am thankful that the hair grab does not result in any injury.”
She was banned for one game.
Harrison wasn’t the only player banned for hair-pulling last weekend. Scotland international and Exeter Chiefs’ Demi Swann, was found guilty of pulling hair against Bristol Bears and also banned for a match.