Referee Tim Wigglesworth showed three red cards during Leicester Tigers’ hard fought 17-12 win over Bath in the Aviva Premiership on the weekend. There were also two yellow cards in a second half at Welford Road that few could have predicted.
Bath were looking strong after tries to Stephen Donald and Tom Biggs despite two penalties from George Ford. Things went downhill in the second half though, as they first lost Simon Taylor to the bin for obstruction, then Francois Louw got sent off for something far more sinister.
The cameras didn’t catch the actual incident but the referee’s assistant had no hesitation in recommending a red card for Louw dropping an elbow on Tigers fullback Geordan Murphy.
Fast forward a few minutes and Matt Bahanan high tackled Anthony Allen from a restart, knocking him out cold. Brett Deacon took exception to it in the form of a punch to the face before chaos ensued, and both players were red carded upon recommendation of the Television Match Official.
“Certainly I will never condone or coach foul play and I know the professionals involved,” said Bath coach Gary Gold post match. “I thought Matt’s definitely wasn’t a red but when you lose a game I don’t want to have a go at officials.
“It was irresponsible and it was unfortunate but I didn’t think it was red but it was a penalty and Matt knows he has made a mistake and feels terrible about it.”
Tigers boss Richard Cockerill wasn’t as delicate in his description of the officials’ rulings.
“Three red cards in a game where there was a lot of pushing and shoving and a clumsy tackle is madness to me. It was just shenanigans. In a way what went on made the game more interesting. We all live in the playground. Boys will be boys and you shake hands and get on with it,” said Cockerill.
“The first sending off was something about nothing. There was a bit of a scuffle and Louw dropped an elbow on a player and it’s a straight red card. Should he have been sent off? Probably not.
“It’s a bit harsh but it’s the world we live in. I don’t think it will put anybody off from wanting to play the game but it’s a man’s game. It’s a physical game.
“Banahan is a big, physical man who made a clumsy challenge. It hurt Anthony and it looks particularly bad but I don’t think it was particularly malicious. Brett Deacon retaliates a little bit and throws a punch because his mate has been pole-axed and suddenly they are both off.
“You strike a player and it’s a straight red. It’s political correctness gone mad and in my opinion it’s out of kilter in terms of how the game should be played.
“If you go back to the 1990s when this side was very aggressive we would have three blokes a side. I don’t necessarily agree with how it’s refereed but that’s the way it is,” he added.
A few minutes after the main incident, Donald was sinbinned for pushing a player in the face.
Earlier tonight a discplinary panel banned Tigers flanker Brett Deacon for one week for striking, while Matt Banahan received a three week suspension for the dangerous tackle on Allen.
The case of Francois Louw was dismissed, but quite surprisingly Bath hooker Lee Mears received a two week ban for striking, which wasn’t spotted by the cameras or officials on the day.