SYDNEY, May 20 (Reuters) - The Queensland Reds are likely to be fuming on Tuesday after the red card that effectively consigned them to their sixth straight Super Rugby defeat at the weekend was rescinded.
With the scores in the match against the Melbourne Rebels level at 27-27 with two minutes to go on Saturday, the Reds were awarded a penalty which allowed them to clear their lines and prepare for a last-ditch assault.
The television official Steve Lescinski, however, alerted referee Steve Walsh to what he thought had been eye-gouging by replacement forward Ed O'Donoghue on Rebels skipper and former Reds player Scott Higginbotham.
After giving Lescinski plenty of opportunities to back down, Walsh reluctantly showed O'Donoghue the red card and reversed the penalty, allowing Jason Woodward a straightforward kick that would seal the Rebels' first ever win over the Reds.
Reds captain James Horwell described it as "a stupid refereeing decision" in his pitchside TV interview, which is likely to land him in trouble with the authorities, and the mood in the Reds camp is unlikely to have been improved by the result of Monday's judicial hearing.
"Eye gouging is certainly a very serious and unacceptable offence in the game of rugby and any allegation warrants a thorough investigation," said the judicial officer.
"In this instance, having thoroughly reviewed video evidence from numerous angles and the considering witness testimony, I am satisfied that Mr O'Donoghue has not committed the act in question.
"No further sanction has been imposed on the player and the red card has been removed from his record."
To make a miserable night at Lang Park even worse for the 2011 Super Rugby champions, Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper suffered a shoulder injury which will sideline him for four months. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; editing by Ian Ransom)