Sale winger suspended until 2022 after ‘judo throw’ red card in Saracens defeat

Byron McGuigan won't play again in 2021 after the Sale Sharks winger received a three-game ban for his red card infringement during Sunday's 25-14 defeat to Saracens.

Sale were trailing 13-0 early in the second half at the StoneX Stadium when McGuigan lost his temper, grappling with Wales centre Nick Tompkins before twice throwing him to the turf.

Referee Tom Foley showed the 10-cap Scotland international a straight red for his "completely disproportionate" reaction against Tompkins, which has brought an early close to his calendar year.

The suspension means McGuigan will miss Sale's first two Champions Cup games against Ospreys (Dec 12) and Clermont Auvergne (Dec 18), as well as the Premiership trip to Newcastle Falcons on Boxing Day.

It was the second dismissal of McGuigan's career to date, having previously been sent off for two yellow card infringements during an 18-14 win at Worcester Warriors in December 2017.

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson won't have his winger back available until Wasps visit the AJ Bell Stadium on New Year's Day.

McGuigan accepted the charge at his disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, although he contested Tompkins had antagonised him in the moments leading up to his dismissal.

"Although he accepts his behaviour was inexcusable, he told the panel that, shortly prior to the incident, Mr Tompkins shouted at him and tapped/slapped him on the head during a scuffle which broke out and during which the player was trying to pull away his teammates," read a summary of evidence on the the Rugby Football Union (RFU) website.

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"He also (with some reluctance) told the panel what had led to the offence for which he was red carded. During the incident, the match footage shows that Mr Tompkins bent down to say something to the player and then tapped him on the head.

"The player told the panel that Mr Tompkins had said to him: "Get that up you, you f*****g ****" before hitting him, for the second time, on his head.

"He acted instinctively but disproportionate to grab Mr Tompkins. He was pushed in the back and assumed that this was Mr Tompkins, so grabbed him again, fell with Mr Tompkins to the ground and pinned him down."

Replays showed Tompkins did push McGuigan and said something to the Scot while tussling his hair, but officials offered little sympathy for the Sharks players given the severity of his response.

It was also noted in the report that McGuigan apologised to Tompkins and the rest of the Saracens squad after the match for his role in the incident.

After failing to score during the first period at Saracens, Sale ended up threatening more with 14 men on the field and crossed the line twice in what looked like an improved second-half display.

Sanderson told reporters after the game that McGuigan has experience training in martial arts, suggesting his instincts took over during the clash with Tompkins: "Byron trains at UFC on his time off so maybe he just had a flashback of some sort of ultimate fighting session he's done.

"He's a great lad, one of the hardest workers. The emotion, the occasion, the fact we hadn't scored – I was feeling that too. It probably got the better of him."

A fifth defeat in nine games so far this season left Sale 10th in the Premiership ahead of the Christmas schedule, with Sanderson's side set to enjoy a bye week in Round 10 of the competition.

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