NORTHAMPTON SAINTS COACH Jim Mallinder downplayed the incident which could cost Dylan Hartley his place at the Six Nations with England.
The Saints overcame Leicester Tigers 23-19 on Saturday, despite Hartley’s early dismissal for elbowing Matt Smith after being powerfully cleared from a ruck by the Leicester centre.
Hartley’s reaction caused a brief fracas between the two sets of players, and could land Hartley with a ban.
Match referee JP Doyle initially seemed content to brandish a yellow, but following a long discussion with television match official Sean Davey, Hartley was shown a red card and sent on his way.
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Despite being down to 14 men for over an hour, Northampton managed to claim an impressive win and top spot in the Premiership courtesy of Jamie Elliott’s late try and Mallinder believes the England hooker’s early dismissal inspired his side.
“In terms of the red card, it’s disappointing,” Mallinder said. ”Dylan’s got to keep his arms down, but he was being held and I don’t think there was any malice in it.
“I think Smith went down pretty easily to be honest, which was disappointing. It’s a tough game. If you looked at that 80 minutes of rugby, it was hard, physical, some great tackles. Some of them were quite high and people got penalised for those.
“I don’t think there was any malice in that and JP’s first reaction of a yellow card would have been the correct decision.”
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Mallinder added: ”I tell you what Tom Wood said [at half-time]… let’s do it for Dylan Hartley. That was really the theme.
“You don’t want to be down to 14 men but what we have got is playing with 14 men against Leicester and knowing we can come back and win.”
Hartley previously missed the British and Irish Lions’ tour of Australia after abusing referee Wayne Barnes in the 2013 Premiership final, also against Leicester.
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