The sending-off of both players for striking was deemed sufficient by the panel and both can continue to play.
Citing commissioner Mike Rafter also issued Level One citings – the equivalent of a yellow card – to Geordan Murphy and Horacio Agulla of Leicester and Courtney Lawes of Northampton for their part in the same incident. The three players were not required to appear before the panel and can continue playing.
Chris Ashton of Northampton was suspended for four weeks for an act contrary to good sportsmanship (Law 10(4)(m)). He was found guilty of pulling Tuilagi by his hair and dragging him from the field of play during the Aviva Premiership Rugby match at Welford Road on Saturday, December 3.
Ashton, who denied the offence, was suspended from December 7 to January 3 by an RFU Disciplinary Panel of His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett (chair), Jeremy Summers and Christopher Quinlan QC in the offices of the Judge Advocate General in London. He can play again on January 4.
His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett, the RFU Disciplinary Officer, said: “We accepted that this started by accident but it became clear that at some stage Chris Ashton knew what he was doing. If you pull somebody by the hair there is an element of denigration and this act was a catalyst for a mass brawl that resulted in two red cards and significantly affected the image of the game.
“Without any laid down guidance on sanction we have aligned the offence to that of spitting and reduced the entry level points to that of three, six and 10 weeks for low, mid-range and top end respectively. This was a mid-range offence but we have reduced the sanction by two weeks based on the player’s good record and conduct at the hearing.”
Ashton was also ordered to pay £500 in costs.
Any appeal must be lodged within 48 hours of receipt of the judgement.