Bite-mark photographs prove 'helpful to the panel' in Chris Ashton disciplinary
Photographs of the wound inflicted by Chris Ashton's teeth formed part of the evidence used to suspend the England wing for 13 weeks, the disciplinary hearing's written judgement has revealed.
Saracens are considering whether to appeal and have 24 hours, concluding late on Friday afternoon, to respond but would do so knowing Ashton's account of events was deemed implausible by the three-man panel that issued their verdict on Tuesday.
Taken into account by the Rugby Football Union hearing were pictures taken by one of Northampton's physiotherapists that showed bite marks on the arm of Alex Waller, the Saints prop who became entangled with Ashton at Allianz Park last Saturday.
The evidence was described as "helpful to the panel" and the testimony of physiotherapist Nathan Allwork revealed that the pictures were taken with the permission of referee Greg Garner.
"I ran to Alex Waller who had taken a knee [sic]. Alex said, 'I've been bitten on my arm'. There were obvious bite marks on Alex's forearm/wrist," Allwork said.
"The referee appears to see what is happening, I explain to him that he had been bitten and the referee nodded his head.
"Our second physio, Matt Lee, arrived and began to strap and dressed his forearm.
"Matt suggests taking a photo and the referee said that there is 'clear evidence' of the bite. He said that Alex was clearly injured and would give us the time."
Waller can be heard on audio footage saying "Ashton bit me twice...it didn't hurt too much but it's out of order" after feeling a bite on his arm in the 24th minute while attempting to clear his opponent from a ruck.
Ashton claimed "he had not bitten 100%", insisting Waller's arm had become lodged in his open mouth, that he twisted his head away to remove the arm and did not clamp his teeth down on the limb.
The panel felt the only question was if Waller's wound had been caused by the pressure of arm to teeth or by a bite and while they viewed the Northampton loosehead prop's testimony as "consistent and compelling", they found Ashton's account "very much less plausible".
Once it had been decided the level of offence was low end, with a guideline ban of 12 weeks, an extra week was added due to Ashton's previous two suspensions for hair pulling and making contact with eyes.
Efforts by Saracens to have the sanction reduced due to his good character and conduct at the hearing were dismissed.