|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Northampton (3) 10|
|Try: Tuala Con: Myler Pen: Myler|
|Leinster (10) 37|
|Tries: Ringrose, O’Brien, O’Loughlin, Gibson-Park, Nacewa Cons: Nacewa (3) Pens: Nacewa (2)|
England captain Dylan Hartley was sent off six minutes after coming on in the second half as Northampton lost to Leinster in the Champions Cup.
In front of England head coach Eddie Jones, hooker Hartley was dismissed for a swinging arm on Sean O’Brien in the 58th minute at Franklin’s Gardens.
The 30-year-old led England to a record-equalling 14th consecutive Test win as they beat Australia last week.
New Zealand-born Hartley has served 54 weeks of suspension during his career.
Among the offences he has been punished for are eye-gouging, biting, headbutting and swearing at a referee.
“You can’t strike to the head. We’ve seen enough of them over the last few weeks and I think it was a red card,” said Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.
A lengthy ban that could threaten Hartley’s participation in England’s Six Nations opener against France at Twickenham on 4 February.
Stuart Lancaster, now part of the Leinster coaching staff, dropped Hartley from England’s 2015 World Cup squad after he headbutted Saracens’ Jamie George.
But he was reinstated as captain when Jones succeeded Lancaster.
Leinster already led 20-10 when Hartley was sent off, and added another three tries to secure a bonus-point victory.
Northampton finished the match with 13 men as George Pisi was sin-binned for a high tackle on Isa Nacewa with two minutes remaining.
The evening had started badly for the hosts as Ireland centre Garry Ringrose crossed within the opening two minutes, and his side led 10-3 at the interval.
But wing Ahsee Tuala helped Saints level the scores, going over in the corner five minutes after the restart following a JJ Hanrahan break.
Soon after Hartley came on, O’Brien drove over from close range as Leinster regained the lead.
And within two minutes, the England captain was off – dismissed by referee Jerome Garces after striking O’Brien on the head with a swinging arm.
The Irish side made the most of the extra man, with Rory O’Loughlin, Jamison Gibson-Park and Nacewa crossing for late tries.
Leinster top the pool on 11 points, with Saints bottom before the return fixture at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on 17 December.
Saints are sinners
Speaking after Hartley’s dismissal, Mallinder said the situation was “ridiculous”, telling BT Sport: “It’s happening too much.”
He added: “Dylan has been playing really well and leading England by example, so it was disappointing on returning from England and doing such a good job that that happens.
“I wouldn’t say it cost us the game. I think we started badly, came back into the game pretty well and we had just conceded a try, actually, so we were already a few points down.
“But I think when you go down to 14 men against such a quality side as Leinster then you’re always going to be up against it.”
‘We finished strongly’
Leinster prop Tadhg Furlong said: “It helped when they went down to 13 men and we ran in a few tries. They will come out fighting next week and it is still all to play for in the pool.
“We came out of the blocks early on and it is disappointing we didn’t kick on, but to finish strongly is good. To get the bonus point is important and we have a big game back at the Aviva next Saturday.”
Northampton: Foden, K. Pisi, Burrell, Hanrahan, Elliott, Myler, Groom, A. Waller, Haywood, Hill, Paterson, Lawes, Gibson, Wood, Picamoles.
Replacements: G. Pisi for Hanrahan (65), Tuala for Elliott (25), Kessell for Groom (69), E. Waller for A. Waller (62), Hartley for Haywood (52), Denman for Hill (66), Ratuniyarawa for Paterson (58), Harrison for Picamoles (58).
Leinster: R. Kearney, A. Byrne, G. Ringrose, Henshaw, Nacewa, Carbery, L. McGrath, J. McGrath, Cronin, Furlong, Toner, Triggs, O’Brien, van der Flier, Heaslip.
Replacements: O’Loughlin for R. Kearney (43), R. Byrne for Carbery (16), Gibson-Park for L. McGrath (68), Healy for J. McGrath (59), Tracy for Cronin (59), Bent for Furlong (65), Ruddock for Triggs (52), Conan for O’Brien (58).