St Helens boss Nathan Brown was apoplectic after seeing Gareth O’Brien strechered off after a high challenge by Zeb Taia in the first half of their 26-6 win at Catalan Dragons.
O’Brien played a key role in Saints’ second try as they went 10-0 ahead midway through the first half, but the stand-off was knocked out cold in the build-up after being taken out by New Zealander Taia in an off-the-ball challenge.
Stand-off O’Brien received lengthy treatment before being stretchered off and missed the remainder of the game as a result.
While Taia was put on report, Brown was forceful in his belief that a heavier punishment should have been meted out to the Catalan forward and has called on the Rugby Football League to give the players better protection.
He said: “I’ve let the match commissioner know what I think about the tackle at half-time. I thought it was nothing short of disgraceful and the reason why they’ve done it (not sent Taia off) is because last week (Wigan second rower) Scott Taylor deliberately hit Gareth O’Brien in the head and knocked him out.
“I believe Zeb Taia is a lovely fella and a terrific player, but they’ve attacked his head deliberately and he’ll (Taia) get nothing because the match commissioner will be shocking about it.
“I find it absolutely downright rude and disgraceful that they (the RFL) don’t protect the players in the game, in particular the small ones, who are the key players.
“It is absolutely nothing short of appalling. (Huddersfield half-back) Luke Robinson got knocked out cold two weeks ago, sparked out cold, and he’s as tough a kid as I’ve seen. What happened there? Nothing.
“It’s just shocking. If one of my own players did it, I’d expect them to be sent off and then be suspended for a long, long period of time. Are we going to wait until some kid gets a broken neck or a broken jaw before the RFL act on it?
“It’s like attacking the knees, there is still one club in particular that still do it. I’m really appalled that the RFL can allow this to keep happening.”
Catalan coach Laurent Frayssinous did not give his opinion on the tackle, although he believes the RFL will act as it sees fit.
“I will have to look at it again, but at the end of the day if it is a shoulder to the head then I’m sure the RFL will give a punishment. I’m on the same page as Nathan, but I don’t want us to cop a ban now and the others over previous weeks haven’t copped it,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see what happens. I have to see the images again, but I’m not sure Zeb tackled the head.”
Tommy Makinson and Paul Wellens bagged a brace of tries to help St Helens to their third win in succession.
Francis Meli and Makinson put Saints in the ascendancy, and while centre Morgan Escare helped Catalan back into the match midway through the first half, his converted try was to prove mere consolation.
Makinson crossed again just after half-time while Wellens - on his 400th Super League appearance for St Helens - made the game safe with two tries, as the Lancashire club followed up their impressive wins over Castleford and local rivals Wigan with another two points tonight.
Frayssinous added: “Today there was a lot of commitment from the players, but we could all see that we had a lack of quality and executing the small details of the game that we pride ourselves on.”