Wigan forward Ben Flower faces a lengthy ban after being charged for his attack on St Helens half-back Lance Hohaia in the Super League Grand Final.
Flower could receive a suspension of more than eight matches after he was sent off for twice striking Hohaia, including once while the Saints man was on the floor, with the Rugby Football League’s match review panel taking a dim view of the incident.
He has been charged with a Grade F offence - the most serious on the RFL’s sliding scale - and is accused of “violent and aggressive punching on an off-guard opponent”.
Hohaia has been charged with a lesser Grade B offence for starting the flare-up by putting a forearm into the face of Flower.
“Ben Flower of Wigan Warriors has been charged with the Grade F offence of violent and aggressive punching/punching an off-guard opponent (Lance Hohaia) in the second minute of the match,” said a statement on the RFL website.
“Hohaia has been charged with the Grade B offence of striking Flower with the forearm in the second minute.”
Flower’s attack on Hohaia in only the second minute completely overshadowed Saints’ 14-6 victory over the defending champions at Old Trafford on Saturday, with the prop’s double punch receiving widespread criticism.
Indeed, he was still trending in the United Kingdom on Twitter on Sunday morning and his actions prompted the Warriors to issue a press release in which Flower, coach Shaun Wane and chairman Ian Lenagan all apologised for the incident which led to the Wales international making history by becoming the first player to be sent off in a Grand Final.
His charge carries a minimum eight-game match ban although the RFL could opt to give the 26-year-old an even longer suspension.
Hohaia, unlike Flower, has the option of submitting an early guilty plea by 11am on Tuesday, with his charge carrying a ban of between one and two matches.
The 31-year-old instigated proceedings and Flower took exception to an apparent use of a forearm by blatantly punching the former New Zealand international to the ground with a right hook before landing another punch to the face as his opponent lay motionless on the pitch.
Flower will have his hearing on Tuesday evening in front of an independent disciplinary tribunal in Leeds and St Helens may wait until then before deciding whether to take any legal action themselves after being incensed over the incident.
While Hohaia appeared to bear no grudges towards Flower, saying “people do some things they regret”, Saints chief executive Mike Rush is keen for normal disciplinary procedure to take place.
“It did look bad and there is no place for that,’’ Rush said. ‘’We’ll wait for the league to take the appropriate steps before passing comment and we will then consider our position.
“When Lance was knocked out on the floor, to get another punch to the head was probably what the fans and the public didn’t like seeing.
“Leading up to that, you know rugby is a combative sport and ferocious, but obviously once Lance has hit the deck, what went on afterwards was sad to see.”