Maria Beatrice Benvenuti, 23 year old Italian official, has been refereeing male rugby matches in the Italian leagues since 2013. She made her debut in Serie A - the second tier of Italian rugby below the 'Super 10' - at the beginning of 2016.
Last Sunday, she was subject to a vicious and inexplicable 'no-arms' hit from behind by Argentinian born Vicenza player Bruno Doglioli.
The Italian Federation would later adjudge the tackle "a deliberate act of violence."
Benvenuti was able to get to her feet and show the player a yellow card. She finished refereeing the match but was subsequently taken to hospital and diagnosed with whiplash.
The Italian Rugby Federation have acted swiftly. Doglioli has been banned for three years. Though, some believed that the ban wasn't stiff enough and many were calling for a life ban.
Although, given that Doglioli is already 33-years old, this ban will likely finish his playing career in any event.
Can not believe #BrunoDoglioli didn't get a life time ban for this. Only got 3 years!! @WorldRugby https://t.co/eAoNQaFfAG
— Mouritz Botha (@mouritzbotha) December 15, 2016
This is disgusting, it has to be a life ban from the sport. Not rugby-not right. #BrunoDoglioli What you doing about it @RugbyRangersVi ? https://t.co/alMnxW5fdp
— Jamie Lakin (@JamieLakin) December 15, 2016
Vicenza suspended the player before the Italian Federation imposed this landmark ban. The club said it was an incident for which there was "no justification."
It's an incident for which there is no justification whatsoever. It was a momentary loss of control by the player who, in decades of playing, has always behaved professionally and correctly.
Bruno Doglioli, aware of the severity of what happened, wants to first of all send to referee Maria Beatrice Benvenuti his most sincere regrets. At the same time, he apologizes to his teammates, members of the club, sponsors and the fans for an incident, which risks damaging the image of this marvelous sport.