Parents in punch-up at rugby game
Stephanie Saville, The Witness
Pietermaritzburg - A schoolboy rugby game at Hilton College on Saturday morning was disrupted after a parent allegedly ran on to the field, pushed and shoved pupils, and punched a schoolboy during a rumble between the teams.
The Hilton College parent later allegedly also punched a Maritzburg College parent who intervened after the man punched his 17-year-old son on the field.
Shocked Maritzburg College parent and top canoeist, Wayne Wilson, 42, told The Witness that he was watching his son play in the eighth team match when a rumble between the boys playing on the Weightman-Smith field occurred. The boys were participating in a big derby between the two schools, who are old rivals on the rugby field.
Schoolboy rugby banter
“There had been a few incidents during the match, but it was normal schoolboy rugby banter; nothing the ref could not have sorted out. But the Hilton College parent ran on to the field, and started pushing the Maritzburg College boys away. He also punched my son.”
Wilson described the man, Robert Dent, as a “big, tall guy, aged in his 40s”.
Wilson said when he saw Dent punch his son, he was not going to stand by. He went up to him and said he should leave the disciplining of boys to the referee. “I tried to be diplomatic and told him he was supposed to lead by example. I told him his behaviour was unacceptable. That was when he took off and hit me. It was a total embarrassment.”
He said he did not hit back, but in trying to defend himself the two ended up grappling on the ground.
Wilson said he suggested they leave the field to sort the matter out away from the crowd that had gathered. “I pulled him away and said ‘let’s go for a walk’. As I grabbed him to try and make him move away from the field where we were the focus of so much attention, he punched me twice.”
The man allegedly also hit another College parent who tried to help Wilson. “In the second punch-up I knew he meant business.” Someone then called security.
Wilson said he was later approached by numerous Hilton College fathers who apologised for Dent’s behaviour. “They said that as parents they would take the matter further. I was also asked to fill out a report on the incident. The Hilton College first team coach and the coach of the eighths who was there and saw what happened, also apologised to me. Even the Hilton College boys were apologising to me.”
After the game, all the boys shook hands and left the field in a sporting way.
Wilson said when he was later walking to his car, he found it surrounded by the man’s brothers. Wilson said he was talking on his phone at the time and just walked through the men to his car. “They were swearing at me and trying to intimidate me. They must ban him for life and teach him a lesson. I would never have expected this to happen at an affluent school like Hilton College.”
Wilson’s neck and jaw were badly bruised after the incident and he spoke with a gravelly voice from where he had been grabbed around the neck in a strangling grip. He said his voice box had been crushed.
Wilson said he left Hilton College feeling embarrassed and disappointed. He was also mortified for his son who would have to face his schoolmates. But he said he would probably not be opening a case against Dent.
Approached for comment, Dent, a road construction and quarrying contractor, said he reacted after the third or fourth incident of fighting between the boys. “I couldn’t tolerate it. So I went on to the field and started splitting the kids up. That’s when the College parent approached me and said I should not get involved. He said it was a normality. I don’t accept that. We had an argument, which turned into a physical fight.”
Asked if he punched kids on the field, Dent said to separate fighting kids, one can’t be “gentle-handed”. He said he blamed the referee who should have stopped the fighting by red-carding players earlier in the match.
Dent added that he would be writing to the school to raise these problems with them. He denied that his brothers were summoned to assist him in the matter with Wilson. The Maritzburg College side later won the match 26-5.
Hilton College spokesperson Paul Guthrie said the school does not condone what happened and that in any sporting fixture the referee is there to adjudicate the match. “The ref is in charge.”
He said the school will comment further once they receive reports on the incident. Maritzburg College’s spokesperson Graham Bennetts said they are also awaiting reports before they comment.
A schools rugby expert who asked not to be named, said it is uncommon to get parents fighting at matches, but it does happen at times, especially when the parents are sitting right on the touch line. “It’s horrific. At a match between two schools a few years ago, a parent punched a ref, and at another match between two others, old boys who had been drinking, got involved in the match.”
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