The ACT Brumbies have received a massive boost ahead of their season-defining clash against the Queensland Reds with star flanker Michael Hooper avoiding suspension.
SANZAR reduced its penalty on Hooper this morning after a judicial hearing last night.
Hooper was cited for a lifting tackle on Wellington Hurricanes No8 Victor Vito in the Brumbies' 37-25 win last Friday night.
The original review stated the incident had reached the red-card threshold.
However, after Hooper and the Brumbies pleaded their case the 20-year-old's penalty was reduced to an off-field yellow card which does not carry a suspension.
Judicial Officer Nick Davidson QC ruled Hooper's tackle was on the low-scale of lifting tackles.
It's a major relief for the Brumbies who can edge closer to a drought-breaking finals berth if they beat the Reds at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
Hooper is now free to take on Reds No7 Liam Gill in a clash of Australia two best young flankers.
Gill is the Australian under-20s captain while Hooper was the Australian under-20s player of the year last season.
Both have emerged as future Wallabies with brilliant performances this season.
SANZAR released a statement on the Hooper decision this morning which said:
“Mr Davidson concluded that Hooper made an orthodox tackle around the knees but was driven back by the ball carrier who drove forward with his right leg raised high.
“Hooper did not change his hold on that leg and his other arm was in contact but ineffectual. From that position the ball carrier was left without balance on his left foot. This was not so much a lifting but holding the right leg in a high position which with the momentum saw Vito fall sharply to his left, landing on his elbow then shoulder then placing the ball.
“He was not injured. The referee was emphatic that the penalty was sufficient and reflected a lifting and losing control rather than a tipping or driving.
“The JO considered the crux of the decision lay in whether Hooper lifted or tipped the ball carrier. The evidence did not establish a lift in the ordinary way but that Hooper did contribute to the tipping which partly rose from the destabilised position of the ball carrier in driving the tackler back with his right leg high.
“The decision of the referee is to stand in his assessment of the incident as to the facts and gravity unless considered to be wrong. His position was clearly expressed. He found a breach but for slightly different reasons than the JO.
“The contribution to the tipping puts the player in breach but it was contributory only and otherwise arose from an orthodox tackle.
“He has an excellent disciplinary and off field record. Rule 9.2 allows a yellow off field card where the breach is low end and there are compelling mitigating features as here and there are no aggravating features. While the spate of these incidents may be seen as aggravating this is tempered by the unusual facts here.”