It’s now common knowledge that Chris Ashton’s red card in last week’s match against Harlequins has been reduced to a yellow. But what may have been missed was the testament given by Harlequins own – Caden Murley.
Ashton was facing a nervous wait after a high tackle on Murley appeared to have ended his own career prematurely. On Wednesday, the disciplinary panel carefully considered testimonies from Ashton and Murley, along with multiple angles of the incident that were not accessible to referee Ian Tempest and his assistants during the match.
Murley’s statement ended up playing a significant role in Ashton’s defence. After thorough deliberation, the panel concluded that since the initial contact made by Ashton was on Murley’s shoulder and the contact with his head was indirect, a yellow card would have been an appropriate penalty.
The panel stated: “Mr Ashton accepted committing an act of foul play that would have merited a yellow card. Having seen and heard all the evidence, including that of Mr Murley, who gave a clear account as to the point of contact and the level of force involved in the tackle, the panel agreed with the submission that this was a yellow card offence.
“In arriving at that decision, the panel applied the Head Contact Process, as it was updated by World Rugby on 1 March 2023. This was an incident where there was some degree of head contact and where Mr Ashton accepted committing an act of foul play when he made a tackle that was too high.
“As required by the Head Contact Process, the panel then went on to consider what the degree of danger was in the tackle. Having assessed all the evidence before it, including that of Mr Murley (who told the panel that the initial contact was to his right shoulder, following which the tackle rode up to his neck area, but that any force to his neck was minimal), the panel concluded that there was indirect contact to the head and that any force to the head/neck was low.
“Consequently, the panel concluded that there was not a high degree of danger and that the correct starting point under the Head Contact Process was a yellow card.”
As a result of the delayed resolution to the case, Leicester coach Richard Wigglesworth had to hold back from naming his squad until Thursday night, for his Sunday semi-final again Sale Sharks. Despite the favourable verdict for Ashton, he has not been named in the squad, however should Leicester get through to the final he will be expected to make an appearance in what will be his final ever game of premiership rugby.