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Rugby coach branded a 'disgrace' over brawl during under 14s match in Barnstaple

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: March 10, 2014

Gerwyn Phillips

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A rugby coach has been branded a disgrace and sent on an anger management course after he attacked a linesman at an under 14 match.

Gerwyn Phillips flattened Barry Mitchell on the touch line of the junior game in which he was supposed to in charge of his touring team.

Some of the 30 young players ran over to break up the violence as Phillips punched his victim three more times on the ground.

There had already been a brawl on the pitch during the match between Barnstaple and the touring side from Mountain Ash in South Wales.

Instead of calming the tension Phillips became involved in a running argument with the linesman which flared into violence when the other man accused him of being unsporting.

Phillips squared up to the linesman and asked “do you want some of this?” before landing a punch which left the victim with permanent scarring from a cut above his eye.

His behaviour was described as disgraceful by the judge at Exeter Crown Court but he escaped an immediate jail sentence after it was revealed he is currently being treated for testicular cancer.

Self-employed carpenter Phillips, aged 41, of Jenkin Street, Mountain Ash, Mid Glamorgan, admitted assault causing actual bodily harm and was jailed for six months, suspended for 18 months by Judge Jeremy Griggs.

The judge ordered him to be curfewed for four months, to pay £1,500 compensation, and attend an anger management course as part of 12 months supervision.

He told him: “You were 41 and in a position of responsibility towards young people who you were coaching on a tour from South Wales to North Devon. This was a disgraceful incident for which there is absolutely no excuse.

“You should have been providing an example to the young people you were responsible for instead of which you took part in an assault in their presence.

“I am fully satisfied it would be helpful that you should be required to undergo anger management.”

Miss Janice Eagles, prosecuting, said the assault took place at an under 14 rugby match at Barnstaple Rugby ground in April 2013.

She said Barry Mitchell was a parent, coach and acting as a linesman for Barnstaple RFC under 14s when he clashed with opposing coach Phillips.

The referee, Simon Hill, was struggling to control the match and tensions spread to the touch line, leading Mr Hill to warn the players at half time he would abandon the game if things did not improve. He also warned parents to stay off the pitch.

Miss Eagles said: “Phillips was acting as coach during the match. There were around 50 other people present watching the match, mainly parents.

”There was an incident after 30 minutes there was a scrap between two or three players which turned into a melee. Parents and other bystanders went on to the pitch.”

She said in the second half Mr Mitchell became increasingly upset by Phillips’ behaviour which he called “unsportsmanlike” as he encouraged the Welsh players to behave badly.

Phillips replied it was “gamesmanship” and there was an exchange between the pair and after a line out Phillips told his players not to give the ball back to their opponents.

The ref told the pair to stop bickering before Phillips tell the linesman ‘do you want some of this’ and punched him in the face.

Miss Eagles said: “Phillips dropped the medical bag he was carrying and punched Mr Mitchell in the face. He fell to the ground and the defendant got on top of him and punched him four or five times.

“Mr Mitchell was of aware his son and supporters pulling Phillips away. He was left with a two inch cut in his forehead which he has been told will lead to permanent scarring.

“Phillips told police Mr Mitchell had chest barged him but said details of what happened were a haze. He mentioned the word frenzy.”

Mr Mitchell made a victim impact statement in which he said he suffered a black eye and cut lip and had to take time off his work as a financial adviser because of his battered appearance.

He added that the biggest impact of the violence was on the team and the youngsters who were “sickened by what they saw”.

Mr Nicholas Jones, defending, said: “This was a bad tempered game between the youths. It seems the referee had difficulty dealing with them and some of the spectators.

”He was trying to coach his team from the sidelines. The linesman was not impartial and was making some comments which were over the top.”

He said his client was called a rude name which probably inflamed the situation.

“He is very apologetic for losing his temper.”

He said father-of-three Phillips, whose 14-year-old son was playing in the match, had since been treated for testicular cancer and was currently living on benefits because his treatment had rendered him unable to work.

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