Those at the match on friday night, and those watching from the comfort of their armchairs, were treated to a fierce game littered with handling errors. It was a great spectacle, despite the quality of rugby, played with intensity. In the case of two Saints players...a little too much intensity.|
During the match there were two violent incidents, both of which went before the disciplinary committee last night. In the first, Paul Sculthorpe landed a clean punch on Ryan Bailey, putting him on his backside (no mean feat). Secondly, James Graham hit Rob Burrow seconds after he put in a kick, leading with the elbow into his face.
Both incidents were seen by the crowd, the Graham incident was seen by both touch judges, and both players went unpunished on the night. The disciplinary panel deemed that both incidents should have been sending off offences as they have banned both players (one match for Sculthorpe and two for Graham). Rather than play the second half against eleven men, the victims Leeds Rhinos, played on against thirteen. I'm not saying that it would definitely have changed the result, but it may well have done.
Season after season we get this cowardice from referees who allow players to stay on the field, despite witnessing violent incidents. They have an attitude of 'the disciplinary will deal with it' but this is simply a cop-out which punishes the side offended against rather than the offender. Despite the bans, Saints will field thirteen men in their next two games, they will be slightly weaker to the benefit of their opponents, Leeds challengers for the play-off places.
The whole 'on report' situation is totally unsatisfactory. Players, and their teams, must be punished at the time of their thuggery, not in the following weeks. Stuart Cummins needs to urge his referees to take decisive action on the night and start taking the red card out onto the field. Only then will the players start to get the message that their cowardly attacks are not allowed within our game.