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'I just hope that Joe wasn't made a scapegoat for something'

By PA
Joe Marler /PA

Harlequins head coach Tabai Matson hopes that “a clear mandate comes down from above” after Joe Marler was banned for verbally provoking an opponent.

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Quins and England prop Marler was banned for two weeks, with a further four weeks suspended, following comments he made towards Bristol flanker Jake Heenan in a Gallagher Premiership game five days ago.

Marler accepted a Rugby Football Union charge of conduct prejudicial to the game, with his remarks reportedly relating to Heenan’s mother.

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Marler missed Quins’ 46-17 Premiership defeat against Northampton, and he will also sit out next weekend’s appointment with play-off rivals Sale Sharks.

“I just hope that Joe wasn’t made a scapegoat for something, and that there is actually a clear mandate comes down from above. That’s ultimately what you want,” Matson said.

“And the referees, that’s the key thing, they are the ones who go out and deliver whatever is mandated above. As long as there is clarity there.

“I think if you put an audio-catcher next to the Premiership games next week, we would all be sorely disappointed. It is a can of worms.”

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While Marler serves the latest suspension in a career scarred by disciplinary issues, Quins were left to dust themselves down following a miserable display that saw them concede six tries.

Australian wing James Ramm scored twice, while there were also touchdowns for prop Alex Waller, full-back George Furbank, flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and replacement Rory Hutchinson.

Fly-half Fin Smith kicked two conversions before going off injured, with Furbank adding two penalties and three conversions for a 17-point haul.

Matson added: “I think with a scoreline like that, it is pretty hard to sum up. There were multiple issues, and we clearly weren’t at the races.

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“We have to let it fester and settle over the next 48 hours and come back with solutions.

“We face a red-hot Sale team next Sunday, so we definitely have got to be significantly better in all areas.

“As coaches, we always look at the week and ask did we get it right. It is a merciless competition, and if we get a performance like that we will get another shellacking against Sale, for sure.

“There will be some dented egos and emotions from our team, and they will have to make sure they rebound in the right manner.”

A Tommy Allan penalty proved Quins’ solitary contribution to the scoreboard until prop Jordan Els and full-back Nick David claimed late consolation tries, both converted by Will Edwards.

Matson, meanwhile, said that Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith is “not far away” from a return to action after being sidelined by an ankle injury, although he will not be involved against Sale.

Northampton emphatically ended a run of four successive defeats in the Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup by coasting home.

And it was just the start they needed to a punishing month that also includes domestic and European clashes against Exeter, Munster, La Rochelle and Leicester.

Saints’ rugby director Phil Dowson said: “We were way better today (than against Munster before Christmas) and that is because we worked hard at it.

“The coaches sat down and thought what is the best plan moving forward for this group, and the lads have been brilliant in terms of picking that up and performing.

“We’ve got loads of work to do, but it was way better than it was.”

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