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'Very efficient refereeing' saves Sean Maitland from a red card

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Scotland international Sean Maitland exhaled a sigh of relief that he wasn’t red carded just eight minutes into his first appearance of the new Gallagher Premiership season with Saracens. His collision with Brett Connon was initially only deemed a penalty offence by referee Ian Tempest, but it was soon elevated by the referee to a red card incident before mitigation was then taken into account.

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The game at the StoneX was in the early stages when Connon caught the ball on the halfway line near the touchline and he was clattered into by the fast-approaching Maitland, the seasoned Saracens winger whose left arm collided with the face of the Newcastle player.

Maitland also inadvertently smacked into the back of the leg of Adam Radwan, who was watching the Connon catch unfold, and the newly capped England winger wasn’t shy in letting his opponent know he wasn’t happy with the impact.  

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Commentating on BT Sport, who were showing the Premiership game live, pundit Brian O’Driscoll said: “He [Maitland] charged into that one, he didn’t leave himself any room for manoeuvre in case the player’s body height dropped. 

There is going to be a little bit of trouble on this one, it’s the left arm of Sean Maitland. That is contact straight to the head. Maitland is usually very good at judging the way he is going to get there for a collision, but for him to charge in it is badly mistimed.”

Seeing Tempest initially only award a penalty, Lawrence Dallaglio chipped in: “The referee is being quite lenient. In fairness to Maitland, he has not swung the arm. It does make contact but what the referee has explained is there is a change in height at the end. He had given Maitland the benefit of the doubt.”

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O’Driscoll replied: “I’d argue he [Maitland] hasn’t given himself any grace period to be able to react to something like that happening. It happened so quickly, he accelerated so hard. Yes, there is a duck but he is very, very fortunate to be getting away with that.”

At this point, Tempest had just seen a replay on the stadium screen and decided to review his initial decision. “I’m seeing this on the screen, I am going to come to you,” he said to his TMO, Claire Hodnett.  

“What I am seeing there, Claire, is direct to the head, we need to talk about the level of danger. It is direct to the head, I see it as a high degree of danger. There is a clear, sudden dip at the last moment so the dip is my mitigation here. I’ll start at red, mitigation brings it down to a yellow card for No11 Saracens.”

O’Driscoll reacted: “It was going to be a stretch to go from penalty only to red card. Credit to the referee, he has identified it, he thought there was more in it, he took the decision into his own hands. I know he is working with his assistant referees and his TMO, but I thought that was very efficient refereeing and, on the balance of things, a fair outcome.”

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During the ten-minute Maitland absence for Saracens, Newcastle struck for the game’s opening try through Mike Brown, the veteran ex-England full-back who was making his debut for the Falcons following his summer move from Harlequins. The visitors went on to lead 17-3 before Saracens hit back with a penalty try just minutes before the interval, a decision that also saw George McGuigan yellow carded.

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