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Thomas punch was asking for trouble
3:07pm Tuesday 18th February 2014 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
I SUSPECT, in the cold light of day, Jonathan Thomas will be regretting his actions against Northampton Saints.
The Worcester Warriors skipper saw red card after punching Sam Dickinson in an off-the-ball incident during Saturday's Aviva Premiership match at Franklin's Gardens.
Thomas now faces a tribunal tomorrow night which will determine whether he will be handed further sanction.
It all comes at time when Warriors least need the aggro. They are fighting an uphill battle to retain their top-flight status and in a week that also saw their chief executive leave, this was the last thing they needed.
But it was all so avoidable. Regardless of anything Warriors say in mitigation, if Thomas hadn't hit Dickinson he wouldn't have been sent off.
It doesn't matter what sport you play, intensely physical or otherwise, punching someone runs the risk of a red card. At the very least, it gives the officials a decision to make.
Warriors' argument is that the only reason referee Wayne Barnes returned to the incident, and referred it to the TMO, was because Dickinson had gone to ground.
In other words, they were hoping he'd get away with it.
Earlier this month, Thomas was himself clearly punched in the face by Exeter Chiefs lock Romana Graham during their LV= Cup defeat at Sixways.
I spoke to the Welsh international in the aftermath and saw the stitches in his lip.
But nothing was done because the referee didn't see it. On that occasion, Graham got away with it and, to his credit, Thomas didn't react.
This time, however, he was the one who swung his arm and perhaps it is just the way Worcester's luck is at the moment that he got caught.
Director of rugby Dean Ryan has suggested that these actions are commonplace at the maul and breakdown and yet largely go unpunished. He claims they are never cited in retrospect.
Here the Warriors chief has a point. If actions such as stamping and gouging are acted upon after the event, surely the same can be applied to punching.
It is easy to see where his frustration lies if it appears to be an arbitrary process depending on what a referee sees.
But, I return to my original point. If you don't punch someone, you can't get sent off.