Rugby League


30 May 2023

Operational Rules Tribunal – May 30

Operational Rules Tribunal – May 30

James McDonnell of Leeds Rhinos has successfully appealed against a Grade D charge of punching in last Friday’s Betfred Super League fixture against St Helens.

McDonnell had been charged by the Match Review Panel on the basis of evidence from the match officials.

HHJ Sarah Wright, who chaired the Operational Rules Tribunal, explained the decision as below:

“We directed ourselves in accordance with the appropriate burden and standard of proof namely that the Compliance Manager bears the burden of proof and has to establish that the misconduct has occurred to the reasonable satisfaction of the tribunal bearing in mind the seriousness of the allegation. The standard of proof is greater than a mere balance of probability but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We reviewed footage including a substantial amount of footage that had not been broadcast and footage which had not been seen by the Match Review Panel.

“The player together with Matt Cook [Leeds Rhinos General Manager] took us through a detailed analysis of the footage. It showed beyond doubt that Jonny Lomax was injured and bleeding heavily before the incident involving James McDonnell.

“No punch can be seen on the footage, and it was conceded by the RFL Compliance Manager on behalf of the Match Review Panel that the footage was inconclusive.  We were able to view the incident from a number of angles and did not see a punch thrown.  We accept entirely that the touch judge was genuinely certain that at the time he saw a punch. However, he was not able to point out the punch on the footage. We cannot rule out the fact that he may have been genuinely mistaken and therefore cannot be satisfied to the appropriate standard that a punch was thrown and we allow the appeal.”