Saints launch strong defence of skipper Hartley

SENT OFF - Saints skipper Dylan Hartley saw red against Leicester on Saturday (picture: Sharon Lucey)
SENT OFF - Saints skipper Dylan Hartley saw red against Leicester on Saturday (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Jim Mallinder insists Saints do not want to change skipper Dylan Hartley and are ready to defend their captain at his disciplinary hearing.

Hartley could be up in front of the RFU as soon as Tuesday after his dismissal in the 17th minute of the game against Leicester Tigers at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

Saints went on to win the match in stunning fashion, securing a 23-19 success against their local rivals in the Aviva Premiership encounter.

But Hartley’s red card, given for elbowing Leicester centre Matt Smith, left a sour taste in the mouth of the home team, who used the incident as fuel for the fire.

It was the second time the hooker had been sent off in a game against Leicester, following his dismissal for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes in the 2013 Premiership final.

And when asked about the conduct of his captain, Mallinder said: “It’s a tough game and Dylan plays to the edge.

“You won’t change Dylan, he’s competitive. You can think of a lot of players in the past who have been competitive and played on the edge and sometimes it’s not worked out for them.

“It was a little bit disappointing (on Saturday). I think it was probably a yellow card.

“It is a difficult one and as I said originally - he should have kept his arms down.

“We’re not saying what he did is right, but what we are saying is that the opposition made it a lot easier and the yellow card would have been sufficient.”

And on the imminent hearing, Mallinder said: “We’ll go in and just say what we think. Hopefully the people who listen will understand and agree.”

Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill was less sympathetic with Hartley, saying: “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.”