A JURY took less than an hour to acquit a rugby player of assaulting an opponent during a game.
Huddersfield YMCA player Fabrizio Leone-Mazza walked free from Bradford Crown Court after the verdict.
Leone-Mazza, 26, who plays open-side flanker, was alleged to have fractured the jaw of teenager Samuel Hopton during a match between Huddersfield YMCA seconds and West Park thirds back in December 2010.
But he had always argued the injury could have happened in a ruck.
After the case, officials of the Laund Hill club welcomed the verdict.
A spokesman said: “Any incidents on a pitch should be dealt with by the Rugby Football Union’s very strict disciplinary process rather than a court. That has been our view all along and has been vindicated by the court.
“Rugby is a contact sport, but incidents like this are not good for the game. There is physical contact but there are lines that must not be crossed and deliberately striking an opponent is one of them. Clearly the jury in this case has accepted Fabrizio’s evidence that he did not strike his opponent in what was a competitive game.”
Leone-Mazza, of Southgate, Elland, was accused of punching the 18-year-old in the face during the second half of the hard-fought contest.
Huddersfield won the game, which was played at Laund Hill, by 29-8.
Bradford Crown Court heard that Mr Hopton was substituted and later treated in hospital for two fractures to his jaw.
Leone-Mazza, who was charged with causing grievous bodily harm, denied throwing a punch at his opposite number and said he did not realise anyone had been injured until Mr Hopton’s father came into the home team’s changing room after the game.
The jury heard that the match referee later told a police officer he had not seen any incident and Leone-Mazza suggested that Mr Hopton may have been injured during a collision between the two players at a ruck.
The court heard that Mr Hopton, now 19, had to have a plate inserted in his jaw to fix one of the fractures and was put on a soft food diet for up to six weeks.