Cunningham blasts ‘unprofessional’ Smith

Saints headcoach Keiron Cunningham
Saints headcoach Keiron Cunningham
  • Saints boss accuses his Warrington counterpart of ‘sour grapes’
  • Cunningham dismisses suggestions Saints deliberately hurt rivals
  • He hails stunning win which ended run of defeats to neighbours

Keiron Cunningham accused Warrington boss Tony Smith of “sour grapes” after Saints smashed their Langtree Park hoodoo with a pulsating win over the Wire.

Smith was incensed by an alleged “leg lift” tackle by Saints skipper Jon Wilkin which left Wire prop Ben Evans nursing a serious leg injury.

I respect Tony highly – both as a person and as a coach. But it just comes across as sour grapes. I think we frustrated them defensively all night. Warrington have done well against us at Langtree Park and now we’ve got the monkey off our back

Saints head coach Keiron Cunningham

But Cunningham hit back, describing Smith’s comments as “really unprofessional”.

He said: “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous for a head coach of his calibre to come out with such garbage. Injuries are part of our sport and none of my players go out to hurt anybody. If they do, they won’t be picked the week after.

“I respect Tony highly – both as a person and as a coach. But it just comes across as sour grapes. I think we frustrated them defensively all night. Warrington have done well against us at Langtree Park and now we’ve got the monkey off our back.

“It was unfortunate for the kid (Evans) but it’s rugby league and it’s a contact sport. If one of my players had come in from the side and injured his knee ligaments I’d hold my hands up, but they didn’t.

“I’m totally against teams purposefully trying to hurt people. Certain teams in this competition come and cannonball people and hit them in the head. We don’t.”

After Evans suffered a ruptured hamstring in the 52nd minute, Wolves boss Smith said: “It was a wishbone type of situation where Ben’s legs were pulled apart. It does occur from time to time but sometimes this is the outcome.

“When you are leg lifting and using that as a matter of tackling it can go wrong for some people. It is a nasty injury.

“It has been brought to the RFL’s attention to have a look at these type of tackles. So far we have no laws in place to protect our players.”

However the RFL’s match review panel has since sided with Cunningham.

In its report it concluded that no further action was necessary as Wilkin only took hold of Evans’ leg to complete the tackle and did not force his leg beyond its natural range of movement.

Match report: Page 88