Joe Marler has the backing of Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston despite a red card which could cost the England prop the start of his Six Nations campaign.
With Quins 22-17 ahead against Sale in the Aviva Premiership, the loosehead was deemed to have dropped his shoulder into the head of Sale flanker TJ Ioane.
Marler duly received his marching orders and, despite Jamie Roberts’ effort giving the visitors a try bonus point, the Sharks came back to win 30-29 via Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s second try and Faf de Klerk’s penalty.
The red card incident was ultimately the defining point of the game but Kingston refused to condemn Marler.
“This is not an isolated punch, stamp or kick, it’s a clearout that’s not legal and he’s taken somebody out without (using) his arm,” Kingston said. “It’s a physical game, an awful lot of people do that.
“He will be unbelievably disappointed and upset about the whole thing. Joe was having an unbelievable game as well, that’s the other thing to remark on. His form last week and today had been absolutely outstanding.
“It’s something that will be dealt with as required, but it clearly had an impact on the game.”
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond thought Marler’s red card appeared a clear-cut decision.
“It looked it,” Diamond said. “With my eyes, the distance to the big screen isn’t fantastic for me but they don’t give reds unless they’re needed.
“That’s the part of the game we need to take out, where someone’s defenceless and you can knock them with your shoulder.”
Although the Sharks benefited from Marler’s absence, they did suffer a blow late in the encounter following a nasty-looking injury to first choice stand-off AJ MacGinty.
Diamond added: “It looks like a serious knee injury and we’ll whip him off to hospital and have a look at it, but he fell in our hour of need, so to speak.
“He was defending really well, got us into a good position and I’m sorry to see him get injured, but we’ll look after him – he’ll come back.”