Premiership: Joe Marler faces possible disciplinary for verbally provoking Bristol Bears flanker Jake Heenan

Joe Marler could face disciplinary action for verbally provoking flanker Jake Heenan in Harlequins’ 15-12 Premiership defeat to Bristol Bears.  The Quins’ prop sparked a melee during the Premiership match after saying something as the two packs set up a scrum.  Credit: Alamy
Joe Marler could face disciplinary action for verbally provoking flanker Jake Heenan in Harlequins’ 15-12 Premiership defeat to Bristol Bears. The Quins’ prop sparked a melee during the Premiership match after saying something as the two packs set up a scrum. Credit: Alamy

Joe Marler could face disciplinary action for verbally provoking flanker Jake Heenan in Harlequins’ 15-12 Premiership defeat to Bristol Bears.

The England international prop sparked a melee during the Premiership match after saying something as the two packs set up a scrum.

Potential disciplinary?

As the two sides were preparing for the scrum, Marler made a comment that incensed Heenan, but referee Karl Dickson explained that he had not heard what was said, so instead penalised Bristol after the large scuffle.

Bears’ captain Steven Luatua urged Dickson to punish Marler because of his comments, but the official only stated that it was not in the spirit of the game.

The citing commissioner has until the end of Wednesday to cite Marler for his comments and he could face a lengthy ban, extending his already protracted disciplinary record.

Coaches reaction

Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam says he has never seen Heenan react like that, having worked with the flanker at Connacht after he joined Lam from New Zealand.

“I brought Jake over from New Zealand to Connacht and to Bristol. He’s like a son to our family, and I have never seen him like that,” Lam said.

“It’s best to say one of the areas we are all trying to work on is the spirit of the game. I love Joe Marler, but something was said, and there was a reaction from Jake I have never seen before.

“We are all custodians of the game – players, coaches – and one thing we all value and we all work hard to keep is the right values and spirit. Jake reacted to something that was said. That’s all I know what happened.”

Meanwhile, Harlequins boss Tabai Matson insisted that he didn’t know the nature of the comments but was aware of the incident and lauded Dickson for how he handled the situation.

“Joe does tease people. I don’t know what was said, but Joe’s quite antagonistic. He’s hard to play against, and I thought Karl Dickson handled it well,” Matson said.

After the match, Luatua called Marler out on Twitter, saying: ‘@JoeMarler Surely @HeenanJake deserves an apology. Fair? Merry Christmas.’

Marler swiftly responded, tweeting: ‘Yep. You’re right. I’m sorry @HeenanJake – piss poor from me. Owe you a pint/coffee in the new year.’

Matson tips his hat

Harlequins had won four Premiership matches on the trot before falling to defeat to the Bears. Despite the loss, Matson was pleased by the intent of his charges.

The Famous Quarters trailed 15-5 at half-time; Cadan Murley’s try on the hour mark gave his side a chance in the latter stages.

Quins turned down a shot at goal that could have levelled the score with four minutes to go. Instead, Harlequins kicked to the corner as they searched for the match-winning try that was almost delivered by Andre Esterhuizen, only for desperate defending to deny the South African centre.

“We absolutely back our players and our captain to be really positive. In hindsight, it’s take the three, take the draw. Maybe exit and have another crack,” Matson said.

“But one of the things I love about joining this club is the positive intent. If there’s an opportunity to score a try, we’ll go for that first.

“And so I tip my hat to the decision. Clearly, it cost us, but I tip my hat.”

Harlequins are back in action on New Year’s Day against Northampton Saints; the Bears make their 2023 debut on January 8 against London Irish.

READ MORE: Five takeaways from Harlequins v Bristol Bears as Gabriel Ibitoye comes back to haunt his former club

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