The rugby league world and the sporting community at large have been left gobsmacked by Wigan prop Ben Flower’s savage attack on St Helens five-eighth Lance Hohaia in the opening stages of the Super League grand final.
After being checked off the ball by Hohaia in the second minute at Old Trafford, Flower retaliated with a brutal right hook, flooring the former Kiwi Test veteran. But Flower’s follow-up punch on a prostrate, seemingly unconscious Hohaia ranks among the worst acts of thuggery seen on a rugby league field in the modern era.
The Welsh international became the first player to be sent off in a Super League decider, his absence proving crucial as St Helens held on for a tense 14-6 win in front of 70,102 supporters.
Hohaia was unable to continue after the shocking incident.
The Warriors led 6-2 at halftime, but tries to Tom Makinson and Canberra-bound Sia Soliola saw the Saints home.
The victory secured the perennial heavyweights’ first title since 2006 and broke the club’s remarkable run of outs on grand final day – the Saints lost five consecutive deciders from 2007-11.
Veteran hooker James Roby claimed the Harry Sunderland Medal as man-of-the-match, while the success was especially gratifying for 34-year-old captain Paul Wellens, who was making his record-equalling 10th grand final appearance, and departing coach Nathan Brown.