VIDEO: Tom Carter tackle on Higgers - what sanction? - Green and Gold Rugby
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VIDEO: Tom Carter tackle on Higgers – what sanction?

VIDEO: Tom Carter tackle on Higgers – what sanction?

One of the big talking points from the Waratahs / Rebels match was the Tom Carter tackle on Higgers. By the look of the forum, it’s a debate that everyone has an opinion on.

Was it reckless, or did the Tah’s centre have the right to stop the man? Re-watch the video and have your vote below.

[youtube id=”dFXx2jXr5y8″ width=”600″ height=”350″]



  • Barbarian

    I don’t know what he was supposed to do in that circumstance. Higgers was 5m out and his momentum was taking him closer to the tryline. If TC allows him to come down safely the he may well have scored, or at least gone quite close to doing so. It’s a tough one, but what Carter did was not malicious, it was entirely reasonable. Unfortunate for Higgers, but it’s ‘play on’ for mine.

    • Drop Kick

      I agree, but I don’t think Higgers could have scored legitimately – he had knocked on hadn’t he.

      • wowjiffylube

        He hadn’t actually. The ball didn’t come into contact with the ground or another player between his touches. It counts as his possession the whole time.

    • Jimmydubs

      how about not go through with the dump action??

      not saying he shouldnt have touched him, the first half is fine but I struggle with how he ends it.

      • mxyzptlk

        That dump action is strange.

        Had Higgers not jumped so high and Carter does the same dump action, he probably dumps Higgers on his head — and that’d lead to at least a yellow. Higgers was so high in the air that has a little time to right himself.

        But if you watch Carter, first there’s the contact — he could have just dragged him down then and there (considering he had his opponent over his head); then Carter drives under and through, which sends Higgers over Carter’s shoulder — if the idea is to stop him from getting near the try line, that puts Higgers behind Carter, and it’s tough to stop an opponent when your back’s to him; but then after driving through, Carter jumps into the air — his feet leave the ground — as he launches Higgers higher up into the air. If he had wrapped Higgers up around the hips instead of the shins/ankles and did the same move, he most likely would have dropped him on his head.

        So it seems Carter got away with this one mainly because Higgers jumped so high. But driving under and through, and then launching into the air, were probably bad choices with an elevated opponent. If someone did that in a lineout, what would the penalty be?

      • Rex Munday

        Ioane got done for many weeks for dumping Marcell Coetzee who jumped into the tackle. Then again he doesn’t play for the right team…

        • Barbarian

          I love it how a discussion of an incident in a Rebels/Tahs game can STILL turn into an anti-Queensland conspiracy…

      • Barbarian

        But I think the dump wasn’t deliberate at all. I think with a player in the air moving forward that is always going to happen, unless you have beast-like strength and can hold their weight in the air.

    • Gus

      What he could have done is jump in the air and compete for the ball throwing his body weight into Higgenbotham to at least put him off balance, what he did do was stop his own momentum, size him up and then tackle him in the air once he recovered the ball.

      Just because he was near the try line doesn’t change that it was a very dangerous tip tackle. It’s not an issue of intent but execution when it comes to player safety. It’s not like a trip is any more legal or any less dangerous if the player is running past you to an empty try line than if there is a fullback behind you in cover defense. The instant yellow card remains the only difference is whether you award a penalty try. Carter clearly broke tackling laws designed to protect player safety and should have been sanctioned as such.

      Rules that are specifically designed to protect player safety need to be enforced correctly regardless of the specific game situation. The citation commission is there to correct any interpretations or over zealous officiating.

      • Barbarian

        Hindsight is a marvelous thing, especially when the ball is only in the air for a fraction of a second. In that fraction TC determined the ball was not contestible, which I think was fair enough.

        The laws would agree with you, the exact definition is “A player must not tackle an opponent whose feet are off the ground.”

        But I put a situation to you- I am 5m out, and charge at the defensive line before leaping into the air, NFL-style. What are the opposition supposed to do? If they tackle me they would be in breach of the law and should be penalised.
        I know this is not what happened here but I’m just taking the debate to it’s logical end.

        • Gus

          You would be penalized for a dangerous jump like Rocky Elsom was against Fiji as pointed out by wowjiffylube. The law specifically prohibits that behavior. I could also put a situation to you- My opponent is just over the try line receiving the ball in the air and I am waiting underneath him. Do you actually believe I should be able to complete a dangerous and Illegal tackle to attempt to stop him from grounding the ball and scoring? Some things are more important that the score of the game and I personally believe that player safety especially when relating to head and neck trauma is one of them.

          I think the more interesting part is whether HIggenbotham is technically in possession the whole time and whether that means that when he jumps into the air to recover the ball he should have been penalized for dangerous play. I have no clue as to the right answer to that but I dont think it changes the sanctions I believe should be handed down Carter. He specifically positioned himself under the man in the air and drove up through him completing a dangerous tackle. I dont think the rules protect a player from punishment for dangerous play just because the other player may have committed a penalty offense (again I’m happy to be told I’m wrong).

          All told I think Carter is lucky to escape without at least a white card and Higgenbotham is lucky to have had the presence of mind to stick his arm out to save his neck.

        • Barbarian

          But there is no such law in rugby as a ‘dangerous jump’. It may be classed as unsportsmanlike play under 10.4(m), but there is nothing that explicitly states that jumping is a penalisable offense.

          As to your situation, it depends on why he is waiting to receive the ball. If it is from a kick then obviously you cannot touch him in the air, that’s a given. But this is not what happened with Higgers. Under that example it would have to be that the player himself has thrown the ball in the air. It’s a confusing one.

          And I don’t think you can point to any ‘specific positioning’ by Carter. It all happened in a split second- Higgers ran towards Carter, who moved in a step for the tackle. I don’t think he realised Higgers would get so high off the ground, so shifted his body upwards to try and adjust to this height and complete the tackle. This made it look like he was going for the tip, as Higgers momentum carried him past Carter which made it look even worse than what it was.

        • I think its play on, i only thought the ‘in the air’ thing was about jumping to receive a catch, kick or lineout? Surely if its illegal to tackle a player in the air, then a penalty should be given every time a player dives for a try on the wing and gets tackled into touch? He’s left his feet, and he’s been tackled, exactly the same as higgers, right?

  • Graeme

    To be honest, I thought the ref handled it well. It wasn’t intentional or malicious and there wasn’t much else he could have done in the tackle. You can hardly ban players from tackling guys who jump in the air to catch passes, especially a few meters out from the line. And Higgers jumped so high that he pretty much fell down behind TC’s back, meaning he had no control or visibility as to how Higgers was falling.

  • Jon Nunan

    I think its an unfortunate edge case. No one was really in the wrong, but the strict interpretation was correct in that it was a player tackled in the air. I’m fine with it being a penalty / on report as long as nothing else comes of it.

  • Forcefield

    I thought the situation was handled well by the ref since no harm was done by the tackle. I am not sure what the official rule for the situation would be, but it seems like it was Higgers handling error that caused the ball to go into the air. So does Higgers jumping mean dangerous play by him? He wasn’t jumping for a kicked ball.

    It looked like he would have landed badly on TC regardless of whether TC followed through on the tackle and either player could have been hurt. That seems dangerous to me.

  • SS4

    Couldn’t help but notice that every single time Higgers has played the Tahs, he has had some sort of run in with Tom Carter

    • SubjectZero

      That probably has less to do with any personal rivalry, and more to do with Tom Carter going out of his to way to have a run in with anyone else in sight. Less bum-patting, more passing to your wings, old son.

  • Gus

    It’s obviously a tip tackle which is an instant red card by the rules and that’s how it should have been called. In the replay its clear that Carter:
    1.) Comes to a stop to set for the tackle
    2.) Grasps him below the hips
    3.) Lifts him straight up
    4.) Lets Higgenbotham’s body weight take him past the horizontal
    5.) Lets him go making no attempt to bring him to the ground safely.

    This is a textbook tip tackle and I simply do not know how it could be viewed as otherwise. I will be the first to admit I’m wrong if there is some different rule that operates if the player is in the air but if there isn’t then this was a bad missed call by the referee.

    I’m the first to admit I’m not a Tom Carter fan but I doubt it was intentional. These types of tackle almost never are, however the intent doesn’t change the the fact that it was an incredibly dangerously executed tackle that could have caused a career ending injury if Higgenbotham hadn’t been able to brace himself.

    • wowjiffylube

      Not a tip tackle at all.

      1.) Carter sets for the tackle. (Obviously)
      2.) Higgers jumps into Carter, bringing his knees into contact with Carter’s shoulder.
      3.) Higgers has already reached the peak of his jump and is in fact on the way down when his momentum carries him over Carter’s shoulder.
      4.) Higger’s own weight and momentum, plus the low point of contact (his knees) carry him past horizontal, simalr to a regular around-the-knees tackle.

      5.) Carter holds on at the point of contact until on the ground.

      There is no lifting at any point by Carter. It is, if anything, dangerous play by Higgers, jumping into a tackle.

      Nor by the way does it count as tackling the man in the air as Higgenbotham had the ball already in his possession, which counts from first touch until contact with the ground or another player. Tackling in the air occurs only when the man tackled is contesting a kick or lineout, or rarely, taking a high pass.

      Realistically, there was nothing else to do, had he pulled out of the tackle Higgenbotham was through, or very possibly, would have crashed into Carter anyway probably resulting in an injury to one or both of them.

      Youtube “Rocky Elsom’s big jump” for another example of a dangerous jump.

      • Gus

        Interesting point on the tackling in the air. I had not considered that technically he may be in possession the whole time. I watched the Elsom video and I’m not sure it’s analogous whatsoever. Elsom is clearly attempting to jump over a tackle whereas Higgenbotham is attempting to regain possession far more analogous to a kick then what Rocky did.

        I would take issue with a few things you have stated. I went the 5 points because those are guidelines for referees so i also understand that the first point is obvious. On point 2 you say Higs initiates contact however it is clear Carter sets himself up under Higgenbotham and initiates contact by driving up into his legs. Look at the angle and positioning of Carter legs on impact it would be impossible for him be positioned that way unless he’s driving up into Higgenbotham on contact.

        On point 3 you are correct that he’s coming down at the point of contact but it is Carter driving into him that flips him over the shoulder. On point 4 true Higgers body weight does the work however since Carter initiated the tackle it is his responsibility to bring Higs down safely. Finally on point 5 Carter holding onto Higs ankles is not supporting him as he comes to the ground.

        • wowjiffylube

          I was going suggest an example from the Northern hemisphere but I didn’t know how familiar you would be with the Premiership or Heineken Cup. But you’re right. More relevant perhaps are “Chris Hala’ufia straight red card for tackle on Seb Jewell” (which was later repealed when it was found Hala’ufia was in the right) and “Sam Tuitupou & Keith Earls dump Richard Fussell” in both these cases neither player jumps as high as Higgers but they take themselves out of contact with the ground with predictable results.

          My main point is that when a player is in the air and moving quickly, it is damn near impossible to stop him safely.

          Carter did not bring Higgers into the air therefore it is not his responsibility to bring him down. It is dangerous play to jump into another player. Higgenbotham should never have put himself in that position.

          Also I think you may be overanalysing the slowmotion replays. Watch the start of the video again and you’ll see that the entire incident is over in literally a second. Carter’s positioning was, I think, entirely reflexive, a product of years of training in what to do when large men come flying at you.

          By the way I’m also not saying that I think Higgers deliberately jumped into the tackle, I reckon he too was acting on instinct and just trying to grab the pill.

        • ooaahh

          Not to mention that if anything other than a warning was given here then we could see ‘skipping’ as an employed tactic to gain a penalty or move the ball down field. By skipping I do refer to jumping into tackles. Higgers started it. Carter just happened to be the guy in the way.

      • mxyzptlk

        Carter also leaves his feet, jumping up into Higgers when Higgers is at the top of the jump. It’s Carter’s own jump at the end that sends Higgers over Carter’s back. Hard to see how that’s control.

        I don’t know if it’s a tip tackle, but it sure seems dangerous.

        • wowjiffylube

          Nope, sorry, you’re completely wrong there. Carter doesn’t leave his feet at all until he falls. I have no idea where you’re seeing this “jump”.

        • mxyzptlk

          Look at 00:14 seconds in — both of Carter’s feet are off the ground, Higgers is upside-down and has just put his forearm on the ground. It’s at that point Carter drives his shoulder through. So what would you call it?

        • wowjiffylube

          He’s being hauled off his feet by the enormous man falling over his shoulder. Carter is not providing any momentum.

        • mxyzptlk

          Whatever you say, dude. It’s all Higger’s fault; Carter had no part of that tackle. In fact, if you watch really carefully, Carter’s actually moving backwards, and Higgers actually grabs Carter with his shins while he’s in the air and hauls Carter up under him. Yellow card Higginbotham.

        • wowjiffylube

          Reductio ad absurdum. You just lost the argument by failing to provide a reasonable counter. Good day.

        • mxyzptlk

          Oh, you’re going to informal logic?

          Inconsistency: First Carter doesn’t leave his feet, and then he’s being hauled off his feet? Pick one and stick with it. You don’t help your case by contradicting yourself within three sentences.

          Argumentum verbosium: You don’t automatically win an argument by out-talking everyone. You have to adequately address the points. But you were already inconsistent in that.

          Post hoc ergo propter hoc: Because Higginbotham is in the air first, somehow he brings Carter into the air as well. Unless he was fired out of a canon, it’s extremely unlikely that Higginbotham gained enough velocity to haul a 100kg man into the air while in the air himself.

          Fervent denial: Carter didn’t leave his feet, then he was hauled into the air by Higginbotham’s anti-gravity field. And his mega-shins. No matter what, Carter had no role in what happened.

          And let’s be clear here — I wasn’t even entirely disagreeing with you (and at least in this case, you seem kinda disagreeable). I’m on board with it not being a tip tackle. I do think it was dangerous (as I stated above), but I don’t think it was malicious. Turns out Stu Dickinson felt the same way on the podcast. But no one else actually believes Higginbotham was the dangerous one here, since he didn’t even have the ball when he first went into the air. Tell us how he dangerously jumps into a tackle when he doesn’t have the ball at the beginning of the jump? That’s stretching it.

        • wowjiffylube

          “Carter doesn’t leave his feet at all until he falls” was my actual quote. Note the word “until”. There was no contradiction.

          I never said he brings Carter into the air, merely off his feet. There’s a difference. It would take a lot of work to bring a man into the air with you, if that’s what I’d said he’d done, much less to force him to the ground with the aid of gravity, momentum and bodyweight.

          Technically Higginbotham did have the ball as it hadn’t touched the ground or another player between his two touches. It still counts as his possession.

          Also don’t think to speak for others. There are several commenters below who agree with me, plus some 15 likes on my original comment.

          Now please say your name backwards and go back to the 5th dimension.

        • mxyzptlk

          1. You said Carter was hauled off his feet by Higginbotham. Hauled. Your words. Choose better next time.

          2. When Higginbotham jumps into the air, he does not have the ball. So technically, he can’t be leaping into a tackle if he doesn’t have the ball when he leaps. If that were the case, every player who ever jumped for a high ball was committing a dangerous play, and every player who ever took the jumper out in the air had no responsibility.

          3. Pause the video at 00:18 seconds. Carter has started his tackle, Higginbotham is reaching for the ball, and he still has one foot on the ground, his right foot. So Carter’s tackle was already begun before Higginbotham leaped into anything. Higginbotham has his eye on the ball, not Carter, and Carter has his eye on Higginbotham, not the ball. This is an iffy situation, not necessarily malicious, but not one to ignore.

          4. As for speaking for others, I’m repeating what was said on the podcast, and I’ll let them trump my voice in this case. They dismissed that it was Higginbotham being dangerous.

          5. “Now please say your name backwards and go back to the 5th dimension.” Whaddaya doing, trying to get me kicked off here? Don’t say that.

          I said good day, sir!

  • James

    I put penalty but watching it a couple of times isn’t it illegal to try to jump/hurdle in rugby? Higginbotham could’ve gotten penalized for that instead of Carter. Higginbotham was well over Carter’s shoulder and Carter’s back had been bent backwards before he tries to follow Higgers around in the tackle he clearly isn’t quite as strong as ‘the Beast’!

  • Guy

    I want to vote ‘red card, suspend him for life’… but that’s probably just because tom carter needs to remove that blue jumper… he is simply not up to Super standard.

    • Err, thats completely off topic.

      • Guy

        if by “thats” you mean ‘tom carter’, and by “topic” you mean ‘super standard’, then yes, precisely… if you mean that my comment has nothing to do with providing my opinion on whether the tackle was illegal or not, then i think you might have got me there Mr Biggins… for the record, higgers created the height differential, so its not TC’s fault, but TC should have tried harder to prevent injury to SH. The penalty has to be awarded to prevent lack of interest in protecting other players. Correct call. Move on. To more important things. Like sacking TC. He is not Super standard.

  • Gottsy

    Seems to me like carter hesitated as the ball went in the air off higgers, then only really committed to make the leg tackle once he started to jump. I know that there is a big difference between being out there in the heat of battle and judging in slow motion but it looks to me like both players made bad decisions; I think that carter definitely could have stood in the tackle and hit him chest high, so I think he is slightly more in the wrong? Bit like running up the back of someone in a car, doesn’t matter what the person in front was doing if you hit them you’re in the wrong by default (bit of a poxy analogy I know haha) but I don’t think there should be any further penalty involved (Tom carter having to be Tom carter is enough of a penalty!)

  • Stevo

    The current IRB rules, on the IRB website, about foul play (section 10.4) state:

    (e) Dangerous tackling …. A player must not tackle an opponent whose feet are off the ground.
    Sanction: Penalty kick

    (i) Tackling the jumper in the air. A player must not tackle nor tap, push or pull the foot or feet of an opponent jumping for the ball in a lineout or in open play.
    Sanction: Penalty kick

    (j) Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.
    Sanction: Penalty kick

    Of the above 10.4 part (e) is the most appropriate and if this is the rule the ref cited the penalty was correct.

  • Klaus

    It doesn’t matter what the circumstances, position of field etc. The Laws are very clear. The player was in the air, the player was tipped. You have 2 options. Red Card or Yellow Card. Sorry but they are the rules. It seems the people who are defending Carter are talking about the ‘situation’ rather than the laws of the game.

  • Justice 4 Digby

  • Looking at it in real time, not slo-mo, if you watch the body position of Carter when he commits to the tackle, at pretty much the time Higginbotham jumps, he is aiming for a chest high tackle to crunch his ribs. If Higginbotham does not leave the ground, no tip. I can’t see how Carter could have avoided making the tackle at that point, there is no time to change. Momentum takes Higginbotham over – watch Carter get bent backwards by his weight. Just a good thing all round no-one got hurt – Carter could easily have copped 2 knees into his face. Probably dealt with appropriately, given mitigating circumstances.

  • Scoey

    Have a look where both players are looking just before the “tackle”. Higgers only has eyes for the ball – he can in no way be found culpable in this. Carter watches Higgers jump and continues with the attempted tackle. Whether or not he could “pull out” has no real relevance, but even if it did he made no attempt to bring the tackled player down safely.
    No where in the rules does it state that a tackle has to be malicious, or whether the tackler was “committed” etc. A player tackled another player in the air, failed to bring him down safely, the tackled player went past horizontal and made contact with the ground with his head/shoulders first. Yellow Card.

    • Barbarian

      How was he supposed to ‘bring him down safely’?

  • Clearly the rules need to be changed to allow (and maybe reward?) players to ‘catch’ other players in the air and lower them safely onto pre-positioned pillows using one of two Osteopathic-society approved techniques. The ‘caught’ player must spend 10 mins in the ‘nod bin’ for recovery. A stuffed animal may be provided for comfort.

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Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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