Not frivolous: Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar explains decision to challenge James Bentley ban

Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar has defended the club’s ill-fated decision to appeal against a three-match ban handed to forward James Bentley.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 18th February 2022, 4:45 am

The appeal was deemed ‘frivolous’ by the RFL’s disciplinary committee and Bentley, who was sent-off for a high tackle against Warrington Wolves six days ago, had his suspension increased to four games.

Agar said Rhinos’ management - who are employing a former top referee as a consultant - accepted Bentley’s red card was the right decision, but felt there were mitigating circumstances which could have led to a shorter ban.

He told his weekly press conference ahead of tonight’s game at Wigan Warriors: “We understand the reasons why the game has got to change its look a little bit and why, in certain instances, we’ve got to look at techniques and behaviours.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

James Bentley. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“I don’t think you’ll find a player, coach or administrator who’s against that.

“We are wholly on board with it and we want to be as good as we possibly can from a discipline point of view.

“James got the tackle wrong and we’ve got no qualms with the send-off or that he’d get a sanction.

“At the start of the season we [told the squad] when we commit these acts, I am not going to keep going to judiciaries and trying to defend you.

Richard Agar. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“We need to change our behaviours and some of our techniques.”

Agar pointed out Leeds did not challenge bans handed to James Donaldson, Blake Austin and Brad Dwyer, but of why the decision was taken to appeal against Bentley’s suspension, he pointed to the lesser grading of tackles by Warrington’s Ben Currie - which left Rhinos winger David Fusitu’a concussed - and Oliver Holmes.

He said Gareth Widdop was dipping into the tackle by Bentley and the Rhinos’ man had not used a clenched fist.

“We felt James’ arms were outstretched, not a swinging arm,” he added.

Blake Austin will make his Rhinos debut agianst Wigan after serving a one-game ban. Picture by Steve Riding.

“We were challenging the severity of the grading.

“On a couple of points they agreed with us and on a couple they absolutely didn’t, but I don’t think that falls into the category of frivolous.

“I felt we had some very, very carefully considered points that were presented very well.

“We felt it was worthy of a challenge; we certainly weren’t defending the send-off or the fact he got sanctioned, merely the severity of it in comparison with the other tackles.”

Agar stressed “If we get to a point where we’re not going to perhaps challenge when we feel it’s worthy of a challenge because we’ll get further sanctions, you are sort of heading towards a totalitarian system, which I know the game wouldn’t want.”

He said Rhinos conceded only four penalties last week and added: “We got terrific feedback from the referees, they were really happy with our team.”

Agar added: “There were a couple of bits we feel we didn’t do well enough at crucial times and that’s our first port of call.

“We’ll look at a couple of instances that led to points, that rests with us.

“We have got to take the whistle out of the referee’s mouth.

“We are using a consultant because we want to be as good as we possibly can during these times.”

Rhinos will need to keep 13 players on the field throughout tonight’s game at Wigan, where they won 14-0 and 8-0 last year.

Wigan began their season with an impressive 24-10 win at Hull KR last week, in Matt Peet’s first game as coach and Agar warned:

“I have seen some real positive changes in them already.

“I think they are still a tough defensive team, but they have taken some steps forward.

“Their line-speed is excellent, they are dipping shoulders into tackles a bit more than over the past couple of seasons and you can see there is a shift in style in their attack.

“They have got some threats and going there you wouldn’t expect anything other than an extremely tough challenge, but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. You'll enjoy unlimited access to the latest on Leeds United, Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity, as well as other West Yorkshire rugby league clubs. With our sports digital subscription, you'll also see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times and get exclusive content. Click here to subscribe.