Bath hit by Banahan suspension

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The Independent Online

Bath's faltering Heineken Cup campaign has been dealt another blow after their England wing Matt Banahan was banned for the vital games against Edinburgh.

Banahan received a two-week suspension for stamping last night following a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing in Bristol.



He cannot play again until December 21, meaning he will miss the home and away Edinburgh appointments, starting at the Recreation Ground on Sunday.



After losing their opening two pool games against Ulster and Stade Francais, Bath must beat the Scottish side twice to maintain any outside chance of securing a quarter-final place.



Prolific Bath try-scorer Banahan was sent off for stamping on Northampton back Stephen Myler during a Guinness Premiership clash at Franklin's Gardens last Saturday.



Banahan pleaded not guilty to the offence, which happened midway through the second-half of Bath's 15-13 defeat.



But a three-man RFU panel chaired by Christopher Quinlan imposed a fortnight's suspension.



The temporary loss of such an influential player will be a huge blow to Bath head coach Steve Meehan.



Bath are just three points off the Premiership basement - they have not won in the league since mid-September - and their Heineken Cup hopes are also hanging by a thread.



Banahan, 22, has scored three tries in five Test appearances for England. He started all of England's autumn internationals last month against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.



Bath could now decide to appeal the ban. As things stand, Banahan's next playing appearance will not be until December 27, and the Premiership west country derby against Gloucester.



Speaking immediately after the Northampton game, Meehan said: "From where I was sitting it didn't look like a red card.



"It's even worse that Stephen Myler said that he (Banahan) made contact with his forearm, not his head. Matt's pretty down in the dumps about it.



"The referee wasn't influenced by anyone except the assistant referee, who told him it was a red card.



"I do know that the assistant referee said he made contact with his head."



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