Winger was shown a second yellow against Leicester

Exeter Chiefs’ England stars vented their fury on Twitter after being left baffled by a controversial Olly Woodburn red card against Leicester.

Winger Woodburn was shown a second yellow card, having previously been sent to the sin bin in the first half for a deliberate knock-on, by referee Karl Dickson after he was adjudged to have dived on top of an already tackled player in Chris Ashton as he was in the act of scoring.

Ashton thought he had registered his 100th Premiership try but a combination of full-back Stuart Hogg and Woodburn pushed the former England winger into touch, however Dickson adjudged Woodburn’s ‘flop’ to have stopped a probable try from being scored and gave him his marching orders to the bemusement of many watching on.

Regular Chiefs captain Jack Nowell, who wasn’t involved in the defeat at Welford Road on Sunday, led the chorus of disapproval on social media, tweeting: “I’m actually in shock, like shock shocked. What the hell is happening? That’s one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen. EVER.”

England centre Henry Slade was also not playing and added: “I have no words”. Slade later appeared to delete his tweet while injured hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, who may have played his last game for the club ahead of his move to Montpellier next season, labelled the decision as “mental” and suggested “rugby has lost the plot”.

Woodburn was sent off just three minutes into the second half when the score was 22-12 but with Rory O’Loughlin also seeing yellow for a deliberate knock-on at the back end of the first period, Chiefs spent the best part of 55 minutes down to 14 and were eventually blown away 62-19 by Tigers, who have put themselves in pole position to secure a semi-final spot.

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However, for the Devonians their hopes of returning to the play-offs are all but over after yet another defeat on the road and it is now the second successive season that Rob Baxter’s men will have finished outside the top four.

Despite the outburst of some of his top stars online, Baxter was more circumspect in his assessment of the Woodburn red card after the game, saying: “Circumstances have killed him. He picked up a yellow card for something he shouldn’t have done earlier in the game. Then he is only trying to drive the guy off the field. I can see how it became a second yellow which turns into a red.

“I had quite a clear take on the TMOs’ talk and they said that his actions, in diving on a player on the floor, prevented a try being scored. That therefore becomes foul play in the act of scoring a try, which becomes a penalty try, which becomes a yellow card, which becomes his second yellow card.

“I think it was four or five things counting against one player; the fact that he had a yellow card before, the fact that the try doesn’t quite get scored. If he slides in and scores the try, nobody even looks at it. Quite a few things make it quite a difficult situation.”

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Baxter caused a stir during the week when he suggested red carded players should be allowed to be replaced to help keep 15 players on the field to avoid diminishing the game and he doubled down on those views after seeing his side crippled by losing men.

“There are myriad ways of destroying games of rugby,” he added. “Every bit of punishment we create is taking players off the field.”

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