Former rugby league pro avoids jail after brutal one-punch attack

Matthew Sarsfield was sentenced at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates Court
Matthew Sarsfield was sentenced at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates Court

A former rugby league professional narrowly avoided jail for felling an aspiring actor in a shocking and unprovoked attack in a bar.

Ex-Leigh Centurions player Matthew Sarsfield, who has also turned out for clubs including Salford, Halifax and Swinton, punched Daniel Jackson without warning in Cafe Stella in Leigh, magistrates heard.

The bench at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court sentenced him to six months behind bars but suspended it for two years while also imposing community penalties and a hefty fine.

The court was told Sarsfield, of Avocet Close, turned on Mr Jackson and landed the savage blow to his bottom lip at about 1am on April 2.

Mr Jackson needed 15 stitches and his injury was so serious that staff at Bolton A&E told him he needed specialist help in Blackburn. He still has a scar and has been told it may be permanent.

Prosecuting, Steve Woodman said Sarsfield had approached a woman out with Mr Jackson and his friends as they knew each other.

The court heard the woman described Sarsfield, 26, as clearly drunk and acting “quite smarmy”, seemingly wanting to dance with her.

When she turned away and returned to her group Sarsfield appeared at her side and rounded on the two men she was with, one of whom was Mr Jackson, aggressively.

The blow to Mr Jackson, who did not know Sarsfield at all, came out of the blue.

Shocked revellers and staff attended to the victim before Sarsfield was pointed out to bouncers and ejected.

Defending, Shahid Ali said Sarsfield’s family had recently received news about his mother and this may have affected his temperament that night.

Mr Ali told the court Sarsfield was deeply remorseful and when shown footage of the attack at the police station he could not speak for shock.

As well as the prison sentence Sarsfield was ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work, carry out probation rehab activities and pay Mr Jackson £2,000 in compensation as well as costs and a surcharge.

Sentencing, chairman of the bench Melvyn Higson said: “Your behaviour was disgraceful. We were literally sickened listening to what has been said. This was an unprovoked attack in a public bar and you were intoxicated.”