OLD TRAFFORD – We’ve all been there, that brief second in a game when tempers flare and the red mist descends. Some of us let fly and take the consequences in the hope we can exact some immediate revenge. Others restrain themselves and wait till the offender gets the ball so they can utterly destroy him!
Unfortunately, Wigan Warriors prop Ben Flower does not fall into the latter category. His one-two punch to St Helens Saints playmaker Lance Hohaia in the 2nd minute (yes, the SECOND minute!) saw him shown an immediate red, thus dooming his team to a tight loss; one that could have been avoided if Wigan had all 13 players on the pitch throughout. As it was, St Helens won 14-6 to record their first win in their last six Super League Grand Final appearances.
A tightly contested game was punctuated with brief staccato attacks and the half concluded with Wigan stand-off Matty Smith slotting a penalty to make it 2-0 to the Warriors. That was followed by a sweet cut-out pass from Wigan’s Blake Green, which allowed winger Joe Burgess to squeeze in at the corner.
The second half saw the one-man advantage start to tell for the Saints. A strong run from departing lock Sia Soliola saw him bust through three attempted tackles on his way to the line. From there, barring a brief cameo from Warriors winger Liam Farrell and a costly penalty miss from Smith, it was smooth sailing for St Helens. A set of tackles soon after concluded with Tommy Makinson out-jumping the cover defence to latch onto a Paul Wellens cross field kick.
Live-wire Saints hooker James Roby took the Man of the Match award after losing out on the Man of Steel for the season’s Best Super League Player.
In truth, the most exciting thing about this final was Ben Flower’s impressive knockout punches. Despite the ludicrous claims of assault, it was another hot-headed moment of stupidity of which there are plenty in rugby league every season. It could not mask what was ultimately a disappointing final, made even worse when compared to its Australian cousin’s thriller in the NRL, last weekend.
Congratulations to St Helens on breaking their drought as another Super League season comes to and end with a bang, delivered by a Flower.
Oh, and the not-so-innocent Hohaia quietly accepted his one-game ban, after submitting an Early Guilty Plea for the flying forearm that got the Blooming Mad Flower going.
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