Video: Ballymena rugby coach furious as player lucky to escape injury in violent clash in Buccaneers game
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The head coach of Ballymena rugby team has hit out after a player who picked up and slammed Ulster squad member Mark Best violently to the ground escaped punishment.
Dramatic video footage has emerged of the moment the 22-year-old was injured in the first couple of minutes of Ballymena's game against the Buccaneers at Eaton Park on Saturday. The footage shows the Ballymena centre in a struggle with the Athlone club's captain Kolo Kiripati, who can be seen lifting the Ulster rugby star and forcefully knocking him to the ground.
Best then stands for a few seconds before collapsing to the ground again in pain.
The game was delayed for half an hour as Best was rushed to hospital following concerns from the club's doctor, but was released later that evening after undergoing scans and X-rays.
The referee - who did not see the off the ball incident - handed Kiripati a yellow card.
Under Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) rules, it states that no retrospective action can be taken against a player.
The video has prompted calls from Andy Graham, the Ballymena rugby head coach, for the IRFU to review its rules surrounding the citing of players in what he called a "loophole" in the system.
"My understanding that if a referee passes out a punishment on the day they have to stick by that and because he gave a yellow card that means the player has been disciplined and they can't, as part of the rules, punish the player any further," he said.
"If he had been given a red card he would have been put before a tribunal and they would have looked at all the evidence and went from there.
"This is a loophole as part of the rules and they can't do much more about it. I saw the video and it wasn't good. It was disappointing and traumatic for Mark. It's unfortunate - but at least there's no permanent damage to Mark, he's got the all-clear from medics." He added that the incident was "totally unprovoked".
"If someone is able to go out and do that and get away with it, will it happen again and if it does and someone gets paralysed and their career ended because of it, that's maybe more the worrying thing about it," he added.
"Whenever it's clear and you have the evidence in front of you it's disappointing nothing further can be done.
"I think it's something the IRFU should look at - there may be exceptional circumstances to the rules. They should revisit it and maybe introduce a clause in exceptional circumstances."
In a statement from the Buccaneers, a spokesman denied that Kiripati threw Best to the ground.
Michael Silke claimed there was a struggle between the pair and that Best "fell off him".
He said: "Mark Best held on to him (Kiripati) and there was a struggle and Mark Best fell off him. He was trying to get free but Mark Best would not let him go," he said.
"The referee saw fit and gave him a yellow card.
"We wish Mark Best well."
A statement from the IRFU said: "The Buccaneers player was yellow carded on the day after the incident was seen and dealt with by the touch judge and referee therefore it is not possible to cite the player."