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Harbour win game but lose tempers
A North Harbour rugby league player has been suspended for six weeks for stomping in Sunday's ill-tempered Bartercard Cup clash in Wellington.
Front rower Ake Aukafolau was cited by match officials after an incident midway through the first half in which Wellington captain Chris Savali's head was stomped while on the ground after the Wellington captain put in a dangerous tackle.
Savali was given 10 minutes in the bin for the tackle, while Aukafolau was sent off and put on report.
After viewing footage of the incident on Sunday night, a New Zealand Rugby League disciplinary panel handed Aukafolau a six-week ban for the vicious retaliation.
While the game was played in good spirits in the opening spell, the 20th minute confrontation marred the game and sparked an ill-tempered battle between the sides.
Despite winning 25-18, North Harbour went on to concede 19 penalties to Wellington's six, with 11 of those for head-high tackles.
Wellington coach Paul Bergman said he was disgusted with the stomping incident and the consistent head-high tackles his players faced.
"It's a tough enough game as it is without players having to wonder it their heads will still be attached at the end of it," he said.
"It was absolutely disgusting out there."
While Bergman said his side showed tremendous bottle not to retaliate, he thought referee Dave Pakieto could have sent more North Harbour players to the bin for dangerous play.
"He did enough to contain the situation and stay in control, but some of the tackling was simply disgusting."
The game was further marred after North Harbour co-coach Karl Benson was involved in a verbal exchange with a match official.
Match manager Pat Lane said Benson verbally attacked a touch judge after the game.
NZRL competitions commissioner Kevin Bailey said he was unaware of North Harbour's "head-hunter" reputation, with Sunday's incident the first time a player from the club had been put on report this season.
"They have no history as far as we are concerned of anything previous."
However, Bailey said there was no excuse for violence - which had no place in rugby league. Bailey said the off-field incident involving Benson and a touch judge would also be looked into by the NZRL.