VIDEO: Eben's ruck clearout in Challenge Cup Final divides opinion
SPOTLIGHT: There was no denying that Lyon were deserving winners in Friday’s European Challenge Cup final, defeating Toulon 30-12 at Stade Velodrome, but the main talking point on social media in the aftermath was the 72nd-minute ruck clearout by Eben Etzebeth on Davit Niniashvili.
The Lyon player had just dumped the Springboks World Cup winner on his backside in a tackle on the ten-metre line when he got up and chased back as the attack continued.
Davit Niniashvili’s has got to have had one of the all-time rugby redemption arcs in this game.
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) May 27, 2022
Having then taken down Toulon wing Cheslin Kolbe on the 22, Niniashvili found himself on the ground after the tackle and Etzebeth arrived to clear him out in a way that divided opinion.
Referee Luke Pearce and his team of officials decided there wasn’t an issue with the collision that unfolded but numerous rugby fans on Twitter didn’t agree and a debate ignited about the legality of the clearout by the South African.
Some comments from EK Rugby Analysis were typical of the debate: “My first reaction was that it was a cheap shot, but Pearce did have a good long look at it in fairness and said, ‘Etzebeth comes in, his right arm binds around the body […] I’m not seeing anything illegal at the moment.’ It definitely looks much more legal on slo-mo for me.”
After a nights sleep, my thoughts on the clear out;
– Etzebeth (E) does try to leave a mark on Niniashvili (N) when other options were available
– E’s clear out is illegal as N isn’t in the ruck competing for the ball
– it’s dangerous play pic.twitter.com/XmHC0blC3Q
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) May 28, 2022
He revisited the issue on Saturday with a follow-up tweet.
“After a night’s sleep, my thoughts on the clearout: Etzebeth does try to leave a mark on Niniashvili when other options were available. Etzebeth’s clear out is illegal as Niniashvili isn’t in the ruck competing for the ball – it’s dangerous play.”
Other fans defended Etzebeth over his intervention. One wrote: “Etzebeth’s ability to do everything to impose himself physically but still fall within the laws of the game to not get carded could be his best attribute as a player.”
Another suggested: “I just think the context played into this. If Etzebeth hadn’t been tackled five seconds earlier I don’t think this would have got the attention it did. The narrative has played a role.”
“Moral” on the basis of rugby’s values etc.
Etzebeth’s ability to do everything to impose himself physically but still fall within the laws of the game to not get carded could be his best attribute as a player.ADVERTISEMENT
— Thala Msutu (@ThalaMsutu77) May 28, 2022
I mean sure, I just think the context played into this. If Etzebeth hadn’t been tackled 5 seconds earlier I dont think this would have got the attention it did. The narrative has played a role
— Ryan Berelowitz (@RyanBerelowitz) May 28, 2022
There also should have been a red last night in the Challenge cup final. Etzebeth lucky they only showed 2 real angles to Pearce, where you didn’t see the shoulder smash to the head and knock the winger out cold
— Stephen Antill (@Stevros3) May 28, 2022
People calling for Etzebeth to be banned 🙈😂
— Tom Lloyd (@tommylad87) May 28, 2022
Eben Etzebeth comes from a distance and lands a shoulder to back of the head of Davit Niniashvili, this after Niniashvili put a good tackle on the South African lock.
Luke Pearce shrugged it off as nothing, but I’m sure the citing commissioner won’t.#LOURCT #ChallengeCupFinal
— Just Doc 🏉🎯 (@Doc_Torio) May 28, 2022
Baffled by that one mate, can’t understand how there’s no card shown. He knows what he’s doing it’s blatant, I’ve always been a fan of the guy but that was completely unacceptable tonight. God knows what the Lyon medics were thinking either
— Matt (@mattbrown_10) May 27, 2022
You said everyone does those sorts of things. I was quantifying that etzebeth does more than most. He got embarrassed by a smaller player then seemed to get retribution on him
Regarding Farrell, his technique is often very bad. But he doesn’t go to hurt players. Etzebeth does.
— Sam French (@AndSamFrench) May 27, 2022
He is amazing. So sad that Etzebeth knocks him out with a cheap shot and he isn’t even on the field celebrating at the end.
— Dato Sandroshvili (@dsandroshvili) May 27, 2022
My 8 Yr old just said to me that “if he (Etzebeth) is supposed to be one of the best players in the world, he should be setting us children an example, and he isn’t!”
— Joe Wheeler (@WheelerJoseph) May 27, 2022
It’s fascinating to me that a man who has suffered the head injuries that he has, Eben Etzebeth showed absolutely no regard for any safety at the breakdown that injured Niniashvili. Yes it was deemed as no foul play but to me it was careless/reckless
— MB Rugby (@MBRugby) May 27, 2022
For context, Niniashvili had been killing Toulon and they were up 30-7. He also completely neutralised Cheslin Kolbe. In that play, Kolbe tried to beat the full back but Niniashvili tackled him. While lying on the ground, well after the tackle was made, Etzebeth came and did that
— Brad The Virgin (@virginmosquito) May 27, 2022
By Liam Heagney, @RugbyPass