London - England hooker Dylan Hartley could be out of the British and Irish
Lions tour to Australia after being sent off in Northampton's 37-17
defeat by Leicester in the English Premiership final here at Twickenham
Hooker Hartley saw red when he allegedly accused
referee Wayne Barnes of cheating as a fractious match neared half-time
and the incident overshadowed Leicester's first title since 2010.
had previously warned Hartley about inappropriate language but when the
Northampton captain apparently accused the official of favouring
Leicester he was sent off.
Hartley could be banned for up to a
year but will have to wait for the Rugby Union's disciplinary process to
kick in. The Lions fly to Hong Kong on Monday and a spokesman for the
tourists indicated to reporters at Twickenham that coach Warren Gatland
wanted all players to be available for the match in Perth against the
Force on June 5, the second of the trip after the first game against
the Barbarians in the Far East next week.
Hartley's track record
may count against him - he has been banned three times since 2007, twice
for gouging - and although the Lions emphasised the matter was out
their hands for the time being, any suspension of two weeks or more
would rule him out of the entire trip.
The rumpus overshadowed a
see-saw match between two local rivals with Leicester bidding to win
the title after being runners-up for the last two years.
their ninth successive Premiership final and they came out of the blocks
sharply after spending the time since their semi-final win over
Harlequins emphasising how important it was to win the title again.
Flood opened the scoring with a penalty before Niall Morris crossed for
Leicester's first try to give them an 8-0 advantage - before Stephen
Myler replied with a touch down of his own for Northampton.
the fireworks started with England second row Courtney Lawes hitting
Flood with a late tackle. The tackle was not high but Flood's head
bounced off the turf and off Dan Cole's knee and he was prone on the
pitch for five minutes before staggering to his feet.
Lawes hit finished Flood's contribution to the game and he was replaced
by George Ford who slotted a penalty ahead of a disallowed effort by Ben
Foden, who was held up over the line.
Hartley was then warned for
talking back to the referee and Soane Tonga'uiha was penalised for an
early engagement at the scrum, meaning more points to Leicester as they
went to the break 16-5 in front.
The clubs swapped tries shortly
after the break with Foden piling over for Northampton before Graham
Kitchener ran in for Leicester after being set free by Ben Youngs. There
was more to come as Lee Dickson dived over after smart work from Luther
Burrell and the gap was narrowed to seven points.
smashed through the defence to score Leicester's third try and when
Vereniki Goneva smashed over the game was up for Northampton.