Harlequins forward Dave Ward escaped a red card after spitting and stamping in the direction of Thomas Young in an incident that marred a 20-13 Gallagher Premiership victory over Wasps.
A sell-out crowd for Big Game 11 at Twickenham saw Ward spit towards Young in the 11th minute before stepping on his ankle, provoking an angry reaction from the Welsh flanker.
Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys sent Ward to the sin-bin but only for treading on Young having appeared to miss the more serious offence, for which he is almost certain to be cited under the banner of acting against the spirit of good sportsmanship.
Citing officer Buster White has 24 hours to lodge a complaint against the Quins front row, who was a fringe England contender in 2014 and now faces a minimum four-week ban that could climb to 12 weeks if it is deemed high end.
White will also be interested in an earlier incident that saw Ward perform a neck roll on Young, which went unpunished.
The foul play failed to take the shine off Harlequins’ fifth win of the season, a result founded on resilience and tries by Alex Dombrandt and Joe Marchant that lifts them to fourth in the Premiership.
Wasps were their own worst enemy at times and are heading in the opposite direction, with one win in 13 games leaving them in seventh, although they will take comfort from a strong finish that yielded a losing bonus point.
Ward was fully involved in the fastest try of the Premiership season that unfolded after only 49 seconds when a clever line-out move saw man-of-the-match Dombrandt storm over after a smart interchange with his hooker.
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The hosts were dominating as Dombrandt had a second try chalked off for a dubious knock-on call earlier in the move only to then suffer a setback when Ward was shown his yellow card.
Mike Brown, who was magnificent throughout, blasted through several tackles and Francis Saili produced a brilliant off-load out of the tackle as Quins continued to punch holes in the visitors’ defence.
A penalty by Marcus Smith, who had converted Dombrandt’s try, extended the lead but Paul Gustard’s men then came under sustained pressure and their resilience was rewarded with an intact try-line.
They could not prevent Elliot Daly landing a long-range penalty, however, and although Smith kicked another three points it was during the third quarter that the tide turned in Wasps’ favour.
Replacement prop Will Stuart barged over from close range to reward the insurgency, but it was subdued in the 64th minute when Marchant touched down Danny Care’s exquisite chip grubber
It was then Lima Sopoaga’s turn to boot a penalty that left Wasps only seven points adrift, but despite a sustained late assault they were unable to break through again.