Ref justice for Saints as Wood admits frustration over Ashton bite incident
There is clear frustration at Saints that the disciplinary door was closed after the horse had bolted this week.
On Tuesday night, Saracens wing Chris Ashton was banned for 13 weeks for biting Alex Waller during the first half of Saints’ 27-12 defeat at Allianz Park on Saturday.
Ashton had been cited after getting away with his unsavoury actions during the game.
Waller had told referee Greg Garner that Ashton had bitten him on the arm, but the referee simply said it would be dealt with after the game.
Rather than use TMO Trevor Fisher, as he did when sin-binning Waller for lifting hooker Jamie George above the horizontal in the second half, Garner swept it under the carpet for another day.
As it turned out, that day was Tuesday, with Ashton found guilty of one act contrary to good sportsmanship at his disciplinary hearing in London and now unavailable for Saracens and England until December 19.
But that doesn’t help Saints, who feel let down by the officials’ inability to punish Ashton at the time.
“Alex had raised a complaint and it’s a shame from our point of view that something wasn’t done at the time because it might have changed the course of the game,” said Saints star Tom Wood.
“But it’s been dealt with by the right people.
“I hate the whole disciplinary process and there seems to be a lack of consistency across the board but I’m sure everyone’s trying their best.
“I can’t do anything about it so I’ve got to get on with playing.
But the flanker added: “They (Saracens) will start with 15 players next week and it didn’t affect them at the time.
“If anything it gave them a lift because they were playing on the edge, as we were, and to get away with multiple things changes the course of the game.
“We’re not throwing our toys out of the pram about it, we’ll just get on with it and get on with the next job.”
However, as Wood later pointed out - it is crucial that players trust officials to take action, rather than taking matters into their own hands.
“You have to be able to trust the touch judges to police things, to prevent you from retaliating,” Wood said.
“Alex gets bitten and if he retaliates by throwing some haymakers and chasing him down then all of a sudden he’s in trouble.
“Unless you can trust the officials to police it then you’re always going to run the risk of reacting.
“I had a similar incident, where I was getting held, someone was off their feet, out of the game and I looked at the touch judge but he warns him and nothing gets done.
“Next time, what am I thinking?
“Holding me for a second could be the difference between me making a tackle or not and if I do nothing it will be considered streetwise by him, if I retaliate and kick him I’m the villain for lashing out at someone.
“You’ve just got to be able to trust the officials.
“I did mention that to Greg Garner on the day and he agreed with me.
“I know referees have a difficult job but with something as significant as a bite and you’ve got the TMO, you would have thought that would have been dealt with.
“They went to the TMO for plenty of things, so why not that?”
The fact Waller did get yellow carded after the TMO was called upon simply added the Saints’ frustration.
And salt was really rubbed in the wound when George, who was involved in the second-half scuffle with Waller, scored Saracens’ first try as they registered 12 points while the Saints man was in the bin.
“It’s frustrating that we fell on the wrong side of it,” said Wood.
“Alex actually ended up getting sin-binned and whether that’s because his head’s gone because he’s not happy things haven’t been policed properly and feels he’s got to dish out some retribution of his own, I don’t know.
“I can’t speak for Alex but what’s clearly a red card wasn’t policed and Alex got a yellow for what was a marginal ruck offence.”
So how is Waller feeling now?
“The only frustration I sense in him is that he was on the phone for two hours dealing with it and being asked to argue against another player who, off the field, is his mate,” Wood said.
“It’s drained him a bit, from what I can tell and he obviously wishes that it hadn’t happened.
“But he’s a robust character, he’s got a great record and he’ll get back to the day job and back to business.”
As Wood alludes to, Waller and Ashton are friends from their time together at Saints, which makes the biting incident all the more bizarre.
“I’ve just really never understood a bite in a game,” Wood said.
“I’ve never been on the receiving end and it’s never even crossed my mind to do it.
“It’s a bit of a strange one for me and for there to be two allegations on the same player within a minute seems a big strange.
“I know they are mates, so I don’t know if there is any more to it.”