The fallout from Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final between Leigh Leopards and St Helens has centred around the RFL’s decision not to ban John Asiata for several knee tackles that caused injuries to four St Helens players.
Both Alex Walmlsey and Agnatius Paasi have been ruled out for the rest of the season following the incidents – with Saints boss Paul Wellens revealing in a press conference yesterday that Paasi will be sidelined for nine months.
Alongside revealing the news of those injuries, Wellens took aim at the RFL’s Match Review for their decision to let Asiata off without any punishments for his tackling technique throughout the game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, claiming the game’s governing body has given the green light for players to now tackle recklessly and dangerously.
Wellens also claimed that Walmsley is ‘questioning whether rugby league is the sport for him’ after the season-ending injury, while also stating that he isn’t sure whether he wants his son to play rugby league going forward while tackles like the ones from Asiata are permitted.
Those words from the Saints boss have unsurprisingly caused a stir online, with former Super League referee Richard Silverwood calling out Wellens for hypocrisy.
Having defended Asiata against any illegal play during the game in his previous tweets, Silverwood responded to Wellens’ claims that ‘the RFL have failed to protect his players’ by pointing to the Morgan Knowles ‘chicken wing’ tackle during last season’s Super League semi-final against Salford.
I'll also say I was quite vocal on Knowles chicken wing tackle on Chris Atkin last year in the SF, yet the Saints Club defend that and get him off. Does that not send a message to the game that that tackle is ok? Can't have it both ways.
— Richard Silverwood (@SilversRef) July 25, 2023
“I’ll also say I was quite vocal on Knowles chicken wing tackle on Chris Atkin last year in the SF, yet the Saints Club defend that and get him off. Does that not send a message to the game that that tackle is ok? Can’t have it both ways,” Silverwood tweeted.
Silverwood’s claims of hypocrisy come after Knowles was initial found guilty of dangerous contact on Chris Atkin during that game against Salford in last season’s play-offs, which resulted in a ban that was widely recognised as fair given the dangerous nature of the tackle.
The ban would have seen Knowles miss the Super League Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos; however, St Helens successfully appealed the suspension and Knowles subsequently played in the final at Old Trafford as they won their fourth consecutive Grand Final.