Hohaia: I bear no grudges over Flower attack

Lance Hohaia receives treatment after being punched unconscious by Ben Flower
Lance Hohaia receives treatment after being punched unconscious by Ben Flower

Lance Hohaia bears no grudges against Ben Flower for the punches that restricted both players’ involvement in the 17th Grand Final to under three minutes.

Flower became the first player to be either sin-binned or sent off in a Super League title decider when he was shown a red card for an act of violence that shocked the 70,000 crowd at Old Trafford and millions more watching on television.

The 26-year-old Wales international was still trending on Twitter in the United Kingdom 15 hours after flooring Hohaia with a right hook and then landing another punch to the face as his opponent lay motionless on the ground.

It left referee Phil Bentham with no alternative but to brandish the red card and condemn Flower to sporting infamy.

Wigan, the defending champions, were forced to play for 77 minutes with 12 men and it eventually took its toll as Saints overturned a 6-2 interval deficit to win 14-6 despite playing without a specialist half-back for virtually the whole game.

When Hohaia returned to the field, it was to join his team-mates in the victory celebrations and he emerged apparently unscathed two hours later to speak to journalists.

“I’m feeling good,” he said.

“Obviously I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to play a bigger part in the game but we got the result and the small part that I played is enough to get the ring. I’m pretty happy about that.

“I don’t remember the incident. People have told me what happened, I guess I was hit around the head somewhere. Sometimes these things happen in the game.

“In the heat of the moment, people do some things they regret. I’ve done some silly things on the field myself so I don’t hold any grudges against Ben. He’s probably disappointed in himself for not being able to play a part in the game as well.

“I haven’t seen him. I’ve been spending time with my team-mates and my family. That’s more important to me at this point.”

Hohaia is due to go on a family holiday on Tuesday and is hoping hospital scans will not reveal a break that could hinder his ability to fly.

“I’ve got to have a scan through the week and, if it shows something, it shows something, but at this point I don’t feel too bad,” he added.

“I wanted to go back on but the doctor wouldn’t allow that to happen. My health comes before anything else. That’s why he’s there. My wife and kids were in the stand as well and I’ve got to think about them at the same time.”

Wigan coach Shaun Wane, who is normally quick to defend his players, declined to do so but captain Sean O’Loughlin insisted Flower’s actions were out of character.

“Ben will be absolutely gutted,” O’Loughlin said. “He’s not like that. It’s out of character for him.

“He’ll be devastated. Something’s happened in the game and he’s reacted badly to it.”

Flower left the ground before the end of the game but is thought to have met up with his team-mates later in the evening.

Wigan second rower Joel Tomkins said: “It’s pretty obvious he’s going to be in a bad place at the minute.

“Things like this happen in sport. If we had got the win, nobody would probably have been too bothered about it but, because we’ve lost, he’ll probably be made a bit of a scapegoat but there’s absolutely no blame from any of the lads or any of the coaching staff going to be laid on Benny’s shoulders.

“He’s been outstanding this year, all year.”

The Flower case is set to rumble on for several days.

A Rugby Football League spokesman said it would be up to Hohaia and St Helens to decide whether to pursue legal action but the case would go as normal before the match review panel on Monday.

Flower is set to face a disciplinary tribunal on Tuesday when he can expect a suspension of around eight matches.

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: “The matter will be dealt with as with any other Super League fixture.

“The match review panel will consider what case there is to answer and then an independent disciplinary tribunal will be convened to consider the evidence and adjudicate.

“There are a range of sanctions available in the event that there is a case to answer and there is scope to go outside that if necessary.”

St Helens chief executive Mike Rush said: “The club will wait for the league to take the appropriate steps before passing comment and we will then consider our position.”