Referee Tom Foley was too close to the action during Exeter Chiefs’ clash with Leicester Tigers when he was knocked to the ground after becoming trapped between three players.

Foley, who recently announced his retirement from Test rugby after suffering brutal abuse following the Rugby World Cup final, returned to action for the Gallagher Premiership clash at Sandy Park on Saturday afternoon. In a physical first half, they conceded a penalty and Exeter built a comfortable lead, but were forced to blow the whistle for a more unusual reason just before half-time.

As half-time approached, the referee was tackled by Tigers’ Freddie Steward and the England star collided with him as he charged forward in an attempt to break through the Exeter defence.

That wouldn’t be all, however, as Foley found himself trapped between two Chiefs attacking defenders, Wales star Dafydd Jenkins and center Ollie Devoto, in his fall. As expected, the referee reacted with pain and his labored breathing was recorded on his microphone during the live television broadcast of the match.

After blowing the whistle, he remained on the ground for a moment before players on both sides helped him to his feet. With a big smile, he told those involved, “Let me know what you do next time.”

However, Foley’s reaction made the TNT commentary team smile as they reacted to the massive collision. “Tom Foley took a big hit there,” they said. “That would hurt a lot.”

“Nice Christmas cookie. That was a nice sound effect he made when he was hit. “He did a good job trying to blow the whistle when he was choking on the floor!

When Foley recovered, Exeter scored their third try to go into the break 21-0 up. As the Tigers hit back with tries from Anthony Watson and Steward, a late goal from Rusi Tuimi helped the hosts win 29-10.