Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston robustly defended Kyle Sinckler against a claim of gouging and then accused Northampton of foul play themselves after hooker Dave Ward was left with a gruesome black eye.
Kingston stated that “unequivocally it was not a gouge” after lock Michael Paterson told referee Luke Pearce that England prop Sinckler had made contact with the eye area in the 49th minute of Saints’ 30-22 Aviva Premiership victory at Franklin’s Gardens.
Paterson asked Pearce to review the incident, replying “100 percent” when the official asked whether it had taken place.
The four available camera angles were examined but each was inconclusive and a penalty was awarded against Sinckler for removing Paterson’s scrum cap, Pearce adding that the matter might interest Chris Catling, the citing officer.
Sinckler, the combustible British and Irish Lions prop, will find out by Monday afternoon whether he has been cited for an offence that carries an entry point sanction of a 12-week suspension.
England’s second choice tighthead for the forthcoming autumn series denied any wrongdoing at the time and Kingston backed his player.
“Unequivocally, it was not a gouge. Absolutely not,” Kingston said.
“Kyle said he made contact with Paterson’s head gear. He can’t do that. There was a purge on it a couple of years ago because it’s the sort of thing that cheeses people off, so leave headgear alone.”
Kingston then rounded on Northampton by drawing attention to the extensive bruising around the left eye of Ward, who was Quins captain in the absence of the concussed James Horwill.
“I have to say, and I’m not here to cast dispersions, but my hooker has got a rather nasty eye and I know how it happened because he’s told me and I believe him,” Kingston said.
“I’m pretty disappointed about that and he’s not happy about it.”
When asked if he would refer the incident to Catling, Kingston replied: “No, probably not. It’s not about blowing the whistle on people.
“But I do get angst when there’s maybe questions over one or two of my players when on the day we did not get the rub of the green in terms of the way things were being done.”
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder claimed not to have discussed the incident with Paterson.
“I don’t know anything more than what everybody else saw on the big screen,” Mallinder said.
“Cleary he brought something to the referee’s attention but we will have to wait and see what comes out of that.”
The bonus-point victory — Saints’ fourth in a row since being routed by Saracens on the opening weekend of the season — has swept the club to the summit of the Premiership table.
“I still remember the Saracens game pretty vividly. It has been a good recovery since,” Mallinder said.
“This was not the prettiest, but it was a good win for us to bounce back after that first game and we have now got a bit of momentum.
“I don’t think that was Championship-winning rugby out there, but it is winning rugby and that’s what is important at this time of the season.”
Kingston revealed that Quins had 23 players unavailable due to injury, but insisted England full-back Mike Brown could be available for Friday’s Premiership outing against Sale as he recovers from an ankle injury.