Wigan prop Ben Flower has been given a six-month ban for punching St Helens’ Lance Hohaia twice during the Super League Grand Final last Saturday.
Flower will be out of action until April 14 2015 and will miss 10 Super League games, two trial games and one World Club Series match against Brisbane Broncos. According to the Rugby Football League, it is the most severe ban in the Super League era.
On Friday, the RFL charged Flower with a Grade F offence, one of “violent and aggressive punching” and “punching an off-guard opponent”, which carries a minimum eight-match suspension. He was sent off just two minutes into the final at Old Trafford after he landed two punches on Hohaia, one of which was while his opponent was on the floor.
Wigan’s general manager Kris Radlinski was present with Flower at the RFL hearing and confirmed the club would not be appealing the ban.
He said in a statement: “Wigan Warriors would like to go on record in saying that the RFL disciplinary committee handled a very difficult situation with professionalism and integrity.
“We fully support their assessment of Saturday night’s incident involving our player, Ben Flower. We will be making no appeal.
“We would like to apologise to Lance Hohaia and his family and to the St Helens club and fans. St Helens’ win on Saturday has been overshadowed by the incident and that is wrong.”
St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus added: “The sport of rugby league should not be judged by this event, but by how it deals with it. We must assist [Flower] in any way that we can and accept him back into the sport. There is a person behind the player, and I am reliably informed by all that it is a good one.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Hohaia submitted an early guilty plea (EGP) for his part in the incident and accepted a one-match suspension, for striking Flower with a forearm.
Hohaia had been charged with a Grade B offence by the RFL, but his decision to take an EGP meant he avoided a hearing and, as a result, earned the most lenient punishment for the offence.
“Lance Hohaia has taken an early guilty plea following his Grade B charge of striking Ben Flower with his forearm in the Grand Final,” a statement on St Helens’ official website said.
“He was cited alongside the Wigan forward who will appear in front of the committee tonight to answer a Grade F offence of violent and aggressive punching/punching an off-guard opponent.”
Police are investigating the incident, although no complaints have been made by any members of the public. St Helens won 14-6 to claim their first Super League title in eight years.