Sinck­ler may be cited after goug­ing claim

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Daniel Schofield

Eng­land prop Kyle Sinck­ler faces an anx­ious wait for a pos­si­ble cit­ing after be­ing ac­cused of goug­ing dur­ing Har- lequins’ 30-22 de­feat at Northamp­ton.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred in the 49th minute when Michael Pater­son, the Northamp­ton lock, claimed that Sinck­ler had made con­tact with his right eye at the bot­tom of a ruck. Luke Pearce, the ref­eree, ex­am­ined sev­eral re­plays, which proved in­con­clu­sive, and only awarded a penalty for Sinck­ler re­mov­ing Pater­son’s scrum-cap.

However, Sinck­ler could still be cited, with a sus­pen­sion car­ry­ing a low-en­try point of 12 weeks un­der law 10.4 and a max­i­mum sanc­tion of four years. Chris Catling, the cit­ing com­mis­sioner, has 48 hours to come to a de­ci­sion. If cited, the 24-year-old, who was one of four Li­ons play­ers left out of Ed­die Jones’s lat­est Eng­land train­ing squad, would face a dis­ci­plinary panel early next week.

After re­view­ing video footage, Pearce told Sinck­ler: “We’ve re­viewed that in­ci­dent and he is on the floor, and you do rip his scrum hat off and your hands do go into his face, too. There is no ev­i­dence on here that I am seeing that you gouged him.”

John Kingston, the Har­lequins di­rec­tor of rugby, re­futed sug­ges­tions that Sinck­ler was guilty of goug­ing. “Un­equiv­o­cally, it was not a gouge,” he said.

Kingston also high­lighted the nasty black eye that hooker Dave Ward re­ceived in the first half. “I know how it hap­pened be­cause he’s told me and I be­lieve him,” Kingston said.

From be­ing down and out after their open­ing-round mas­sacre against Sara­cens, Northamp­ton are fly­ing high as the im­prob­a­ble lead­ers of the Aviva Pre­mier­ship.

Jim Mallinder, Northamp­ton’s di­rec­tor of rugby, ad­mit­ted that their bonus­point vic­tory against Har­lequins would win no ex­tra points for style, even if it did fea­ture a bril­liant team try fin­ished by hooker Mikey Hay­wood. And they should have seen off Har­lequins well be­fore Stephen Myler’s 78th-minute penalty made the game safe.

Yet here they are en­joy­ing the view from first place, ahead of New­cas­tle Fal­cons on points difference, after rack­ing up four straight vic­to­ries. It is quite the trans­for­ma­tion from Twick­en­ham where they con­ceded seven first-half tries in a grue­some 55-24 de­feat to the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons.

“I still re­mem­ber it pretty vividly,” Mallinder said. “It has been a good re­cov­ery. To­day was not the pret­ti­est but we have now got a bit of mo­men­tum. I don’t think that was Cham­pi­onship­win­ning rugby out there but it was win­ning rugby, and that’s what is important at this time of the season. We were never com­fort­able but we stuck to­gether and the bench did their job.”

Har­lequins – miss­ing 23 play­ers through in­jury – hung on well enough to have even snatched a late win, but in the end were de­nied a bonus point after a penalty in front of the Northamp­ton posts was re­versed for a Ge­orge Mer­rick shoul­der charge.

They are ex­pect­ing some of their Eng­land con­tin­gent, in­clud­ing Chris Rob­shaw, back against Sale on Fri­day night but with Kyle Sinck­ler in yet more hot water for an al­leged gouge on Michael Pater­son, their re­sources could be fur­ther de­pleted.

Northamp­ton dom­i­nated the first half, scor­ing three tries, two of the very high­est or­der.

Ge­orge North’s opener was more pro­saic. After Court­ney Lawes claimed a close-range line-out, the ball was fed to North on the charge and Jack Clif­ford and Danny Care could not stop the Wales wing, who has re­turned to some­thing like his old form.

If North’s try was all about power, Tom Collins’ ef­fort re­lied on sheer pace as he re­ceived Harry Mallinder’s in­side ball and cut a line past the floun­der­ing Mar­land Yarde.

Then Northamp­ton con­jured a won­der­ful team try in the 38th minute. Ah­see Tuala made the ini­tial thrust be­fore the ball was kept alive through a se­ries of off­loads from Teimana Har­ri­son, Nic Groom, Tuala again and Lawes that re­sulted in Hay­wood going un­der the posts. That was the good. The bad was plain ugly.

Luther Bur­rell has many qual­i­ties but his de­ci­sion-mak­ing can be du­bi­ous at times. Never more so than in the 12th minute when, with num­bers out wide, he wound up for a long pass that could not have been more ob­vi­ous than if it had been flashed up on the big screen. Mor­ris duly picked the ball off and coasted in from 70me­tres.

Har­lequins needed all the help they could get. On the back foot for much of the first half, they con­jured a sec­ond try when Mar­cus Smith found sup­port wide and Jamie Roberts was able to stroll over vir­tu­ally unim­peded.

Northamp­ton still strug­gled to put the vis­i­tors away in the sec­ond half but Tuala wrapped up Saints’ bonus point after the out­stand­ing Groom sent in a kick that the Samoan captured. Smith brought Tuala down but could not hold him and he got up to score.

Har­lequins re­sponded again through a close-range ef­fort from cap­tain Dave Ward. Trail­ing by five points they kicked to the cor­ner with min­utes re­main­ing only for Ward’s throw to be ad­judged not straight. Myler’s penalty sim­ply rubbed salt in the wounds.

Not guilty: Har­lequins prop Kyle Sinck­ler claims he only made con­tact with Michael Pater­son’s scrum-cap

Power play: Ge­orge North gal­loped in for a try as he showed that he is re­turn­ing to form for Saints

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