Saints boss Jim Mallinder vented his frustration after feeling referee Tim Wigglesworth failed to adequately punish Leicester in Saturday’s east midlands derby.
Tigers claimed a crucial 30-24 victory at Franklin’s Gardens to all but end Saints’ hopes of reaching the Aviva Premiership play-offs for the seventh successive season.
Tries from Harry Thacker, Vereniki Goneva and Freddie Burns, who also kicked 15 points, got the job done for Leicester.
Saints could only respond through efforts from Teimana Harrison and George Pisi as they slipped seven points behind their rivals in the league standings with two games of the regular season to go.
But Mallinder felt his men should have had more help from the officials, with Wigglesworth, who was in as a late replacement for calf injury victim Matt Carley, opting against producing a yellow card during a typically frantic derby day.
“You need a strong referee in games like that, particularly against Leicester,” Mallinder said.
“The scrum was a lottery, we got penalised so many times and the front row don’t know what’s going on there.
“Lineouts, mauls are meant to be on our feet, but clearly every time we were just being brought down.
“The referee did actually quite rightly penalise them seven or eight times, but I’m sure that’s a yellow card.
“There were some big decisions.”
And he added: “It’s very frustrating. The referees have got to be tough and they’ve got to make some hard decisions.
“It’s something you look at in your analysis and you speak to the referee’s assessor about it, and hopefully the referees are aware of what goes on.
“But they’ve got to be strong and got to make good decisions on the field.”
Despite the result, Mallinder was pleased with the fight his depleted side showed.
And he said: “It was a close game and it didn’t help with us giving them an interception try in the first half and we gave them another simple try early on as well.
“We were always chasing the game, but I was proud of our effort.
“We put everything into it and I can’t ask a lot more from the lads.”