Loss of captains critical in fiery Aviva Premiership showpiece final

 

twickenham

A tale of two captains who failed to last the course, one in disgrace, the other whose absence looked likely to cost his club the grandest domestic prize English rugby has to offer. The 228th meeting of these two Midland rivals was not, you might say, without incident.

The long-term repercussions for Dylan Hartley of his red card will unfold during the coming week but the departure at half-time of the Northampton hooker and captain cost his side dear. It offset the loss to Leicester 16 minutes earlier of Toby Flood, concussed in a heavy tackle and whose absence seemed to throw his colleagues into confusion.

Discipline, or lack of it, was key to the winning and losing of this Aviva Premiership final. Hartley, 27, has known problems before – bans for gouging, biting and punching over the last six years – but had been thought to have overcome them sufficiently to captain his country on tour in South Africa a year ago.

Here, however, with Northampton straining every sinew to claw back Leicester's early lead, Hartley lost control in the five minutes before half-time. The television official had just ruled out a score for Ben Foden, Northampton's full back, when Soane Tonga'uiha was penalised at a scrum.

Hartley's reaction was sufficient for Wayne Barnes, refereeing his fifth grand final, to call the hooker over: "This is not how to behave as a captain," Barnes said. "Please keep your comments to yourself or I'll deal with it. If you talk to me like that again, I'll have to deal with it."

Two minutes later frustration boiled over. First Stephen Myler, contrary to an implicit instruction by Barnes, sent a drop-out directly into touch and conceded a scrum on the 22-metre line as the first half went into time added on. The Leicester drive came on, Tonga'uiha was penalised again and as the front-row forwards picked themselves up, Hartley could not restrain himself.

Barnes instantly brandished a red card and Hartley stood stunned. The lack of reaction caused Barnes to call over Tom Wood, who will captain England on tour to South America next month, to explain. "This player has just called me a fucking cheat, he must leave the field," the referee said before George Ford, Flood's replacement, added three points.

In the aftermath, it was claimed by Northampton that Hartley had been addressing Tom Youngs, his rival at hooker for England and the British and Irish Lions. "If you talk like that to a player, you wouldn't expect anything to happen, clearly Wayne Barnes believed Dylan spoke to him," Jim Mallinder, Northampton's director of rugby, said.

"I'll support Dylan in what he says, he's my captain, and a number of senior players around him agreed he was looking down at Youngs. I feel sorry for him, for the whole team, it was a massive turning point."

So it was, yet Northampton continued to dominate many areas of the game against a curiously lacklustre Leicester. The first quarter had gone to plan before Flood crumpled to the ground in a tackle by Courtney Lawes; it was marginally late, Lawes was duly penalised but, despite some histrionics on the touchline from the Leicester coaching staff, the England lock remained on the field.

After lengthy treatment, Flood resumed but lasted only another three minutes before being replaced by Ford. With Flood went much of his side's defensive shape and cohesion: "We spoke all week about discpline, we know how Wayne Barnes referees, he likes to be treated with respect," Richard Cockerill, Leicester's head coach, said.

"When I came down to the touchline, I was talking to the fourth official about going to the television match official. It was clearly foul play, it was late and you have broken an international fly half who is very important to the game. To me, the sanction for that is a yellow card."

In the end, Leicester did not need it but they lived dangerously for far too long.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?