"And that is even before one allows for the fact that there are severe doubts existing about the propriety of their decision to issue such a lengthy punishment for a crime which has elsewhere merited limited sanction, sometimes none at all."
And when Kelly talks of 'limited, sometimes none at all', he means the case of Trevor Brennan who was cited for stamping and received no sanction at all nor did his Toulouse teammate Omar Hasan or Chris Budgeon the Northampton Saints prop cited for stamping who received no sanction either. Then there was Owen Finegan who was found guilty of stamping and suspended for 21 days.
And Brent Cockbain.
Cockbain was cited after the Citing Commissioner for that particular match, Douglas Hunter (Scotland) decided that the yellow card Cockbain had received was not sufficient.
At the hearing Cockbain pleaded guilty and Max Duthie Solicitor for ERC contended, " that the player (Cockbain) did not look for the ball, that the ball was well away from the player that was stamped on, that he (Cockbain) clearly looked down at the man on the ground and that he had to step over other players of his own team to carry out the action."
The ERC Committee decided that Cockbain's " honest and fortright manner in dealing with this incident together with his immediate apology both at half time and at full time to the injured Sale player merited serious consideration."
Furthermore they took into consideration that the 32 year old had never been sent off before and "finding himself in this situation," ie facing suspension, " was going to mean a potential loss of further international caps."
Cockbain received a 20 day suspension.
Elswhere in the papers the decision was described by Derek Foley in The Star as outrageous pointing out the possibility that the Cardiff Blues player, Mark Lewis, likely caused his own injury after he and his team-mates had illegally pulled the maul down (on top of Lewis) . Foley's conclusion and advice, was, "never, never-ever, never-in-a-month-of-Sundays plead guilty to a hanging jury."
IRUPA Chief Executive Niall Woods, speaking to Gerry Thornley in the Irish Times expressed outrage at the decision saying, "It is an absolutely scandalous decision.
"It is ridiculous to begin with that the process took so long but the decision itself is utterly inconsistent with other suspensions handed out to players by disciplinary panels recently.
"How can Danny Grewcock, with his record, receive a one-week ban for stamping and Alan Quinlan, who has had no yellow cards in the Heineken Cup for six years, be suspended for six weeks? The players now have no faith at all in the game's disciplinary procedures, and I know that to be the case."
Christopher Quinlan chaired the ERC Disciplinary Committee that handed Alan Quinlan (no relation) a six week suspension.
A fortnight later, Quinlan (not Alan), chaired an RFU Disciplinary Committee at which Danny Grewcock and his Bath team-mate Lee Mears faced a charge of stamping.
That Committee handed down a one week suspension in both cases.