Aviva Premiership
Mallinder: Hartley should have got yellow
ESPN Staff
December 20, 2014
Dylan Hartley was shown a straight red card © Getty Images

Northampton Saints boss Jim Mallinder said the decision to issue his skipper Dylan Hartley a red card was wrong in the wake of another fiery East Midlands derby.

The Saints were down to 14 men for three-quarters of the match after Hartley was sent-off for an elbow to Matt Smith's face but Northampton still managed to beat their rivals 23-19. Referee JP Doyle initially seemed happy to award Hartley a yellow card, but television match official Sean Davey urged Doyle to watch further replays, and he responded by sending Hartley off.

"It was disappointing," Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder said. "Dylan has got to keep his arms down, but he was being held and I don't know there was any malice in it. The nature of the game didn't justify a red card. I think Smith went down pretty easily, to be honest, which was disappointing.

"It is a tough game. That 80 minutes of rugby was hard, physical, with some great tackles, but I don't think there was any malice in that. I think JP's initial reaction of the yellow card would have been the correct decision."

England open their Six Nations campaign against Wales in Cardiff on February 6, and given Hartley's poor record - biting and punching offences also appear on his charge-sheet - another lengthy suspension appears likely, with a disciplinary hearing set to be convened before Christmas.

"It's a tough game, and Dylan plays to the edge. You wouldn't change Dylan. He is competitive," Mallinder added. "It is a difficult one. I think he should have kept his arms down - we are not saying that what he did was right - but what I am probably saying is that the opposition made it a lot easier, and a yellow card was sufficient."

Asked for his reaction to the Hartley dismissal, Leicester boss Richard Cockerill said: "If you strike someone in the face you are liable to get yourself in trouble. That's the nature of it. You would have thought he might have learnt a lesson by now. That's just the way it is."

And reflecting on Tigers' performance, Cockerill added: "I am disappointed with how we managed the second half. We got what we deserved, probably.

"You have to control the field position and get the pack in the right areas, and we didn't do that at all. Defensively, we were poor. We were too narrow, and it will be interesting when we have a look on Monday morning that one side with one less back can create opportunities in the wide channels against us. That's not right.

"They outplayed us in the second-half. There is no point in beating about the bush. We seemed to go AWOL at times in defence."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.