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Heineken Cup
Hartley handed two-week ban
ESPN Staff
December 13, 2012
Northampton's Dylan Hartley fails to find his way through the Castres defence, Northampton Saints v Castres, Heineken Cup, Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, England, December 18, 2011
Dylan Hartley will miss the next two of Northampton's matches © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Dylan Hartley | Lloyd Williams
Tournaments/Tours: Aviva Premiership

Hartley's disciplinary record

  • April 2007: Banned for 26 weeks after being found guilty of eye-gouging Wasps players James Haskell and Jonny O'Connor
  • March 2012: Banned for eight weeks for biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris during the Six Nations clash at Twickenham
  • December 2012: Cited for allegedly striking Ulster hooker Rory Best with an arm during the Heineken Cup clash at Franklin's Gardens

Northampton Saints hooker Dylan Hartley has been hit with a two-week ban following his citing in the aftermath of their match with Ulster last Friday.

Hartley was reported to the European Rugby Cup by match commissioner Jean-Claude Legendre for striking the Rory Best with his arm during the Saints' 25-6 defeat at Franklin's Gardens. Hartley pleaded guilty to the charge and the judicial officer - Roger Morris - opted to hand the England hooker a two-week ban deeming the offence to be at the "low-end entry point".

The England hooker was handed a further week in recognition of his poor disciplinary record but Morris reduced the overall ban to two weeks following Hartley's "conduct during the hearing and guilty plea".

Hartley will now be free to play on December 24 and will miss the Saints' next two matches. He will sit out Saturday's Heineken Cup clash with Ulster at Franklin's Gardens and will also miss the Saints' Premiership match against Harlequins on December 22.

Despite being hit with the suspension, Hartley is likely to be relieved at the outcome as a ban for being found guilty of striking an opposition can range up to eight weeks. Had he been handed a suspension at the higher end of the scale, then he could have placed his 2013 Six Nations aspirations in doubt.

Prior to Thursday's decision regarding Hartley, Saints boss Jim Mallinder said of the incident: "He has been cited, we will be pleading guilty and we expect that he'll be unavailable this weekend," Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton. "He's our captain and our talisman and it's a frustration to lose him.

"But it's competitive. He's come up against an old adversary in Rory Best and although it wasn't a massive incident, it was something. It's playing on the edge, but not going over it, and it's something all the players have to learn.

"We're disappointed but we'll take the punishment and it's an opportunity for other people. We've got Mikey Haywood who's played well in his absence and the experience for him to play against Best and the rest of that pack will be tremendous for him."

Elsewhere, Cardiff Blues scrum-half Lloyd Williams has been suspended for five weeks following his red card against Montpellier on Sunday. Williams was sent-off for a 'tip-tackle' in the 24th minute of the match. The disciplinary hearing deemed it to be a mid-level offence which constituted an eight-week ban with a further week added as a "deterrent". But following Williams' "guilty plea, record and clear remorse" they reduced this to five weeks. He will be free to play on January 14, 2013.

Williams later Tweeted: "Gutted not to be playing for the next 5 weeks with the boys! Thanks for all the messages of support!"

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