Wed, May 31, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Masoe fined after tearful handbag punch-up

AFP , WELLINGTON

All Black flanker Chris Masoe took a financial hit yesterday to add to his embarrassment after a scuffle in which he reportedly burst into tears when team-mate Tana Umaga hit him with a woman's handbag.

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) fined Masoe NZ$3,000 (US$1,910) and found him guilty of hitting a man in a Christchurch bar early on Sunday morning, hours after the Wellington Hurricanes' Super 14 final loss to the Canterbury Crusaders.

The NZRU said it accepted the word of former All Blacks captain Umaga that he was trying to defuse the situation and found he had no case to answer.

Statements from the NZRU following an investigation into the incident did not give any details of the scuffle.

But reports said Masoe -- named in the All Black team to play Argentina soon afterwards -- had punched a man in the jaw after tripping over his legs at about 7am. Umaga had then grabbed a woman's handbag and hit Masoe twice across the head, witnesses said.

"Umaga hit him a couple of times with the handbag as if to say `you idiot.' Masoe started crying. It was crazy," the 24-year-old unnamed victim of the punch told the Press newspaper.

Masoe admitted his role in the incident and apologized yesterday.

"I accept that it was totally inappropriate to behave the way I did and regret that it happened," Masoe said in the NZRU statement.

Umaga has replaced a mobile phone which was inside the handbag and broken in the scuffle.

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