Saints blamed the fourth official for allowing them to have fourteen players on the field for forty seconds of their single point defeat against Hull FC in early June. Kieron Cunningham entered the field as a replacement without another Saints player withdrawing and took an active part in the game for forty seconds before the mistake was noticed. Blaming the fourth official is the easy way out, Saints themselves must enforce the policy of 'one on, one off'.|
It's no surprise that it was Saints who tried to 'push the envelope' but somewhat of a surprise that it has taken them this long, and that the ploy was not tried under the coaching of Ian Millward. Saints have quite a track record; the Tommy Martyn 'Foot of God'; breaching the salary cap; fielding deliberately weakened sides; betting against your own team; and, putting in late shots on opponents key playmakers (Nickle/Hooper/Forshaw/etc).
This decision could well backfire badly on the RFL. To punish forty seconds with £100 + costs implies that teams can buy forty seconds of an extra player for that amount. Logically, five minutes would therefore cost £750 and ten minutes a mere £1,500. If your team is defending a narrow lead or trailing by a few points, what is to stop you from sending on an extra player, or two, for the last five minutes. After all, £1,500 is not too high a price to pay for two points, especially if it means qulaification for the play-offs, or avoiding relegation. Take note Wakefield, Castleford and Huddersfield...this could be your salvation. If its good enough for Saints it should be good enough for you.
Surely the RFL should have come down harder on Saints and show them that cheats cannot prosper in our game. There must have been sympathy at Saints having lost the game in question, and you wonder if they had won by one point, perhaps scored when they had the extra man, whether the punishment would have been so lenient. A more fitting penalty would have been a one league point deduction for a lost game and a three league point deduction for a won game.
But can sides really be allowed to get away with cheating in this manner?