Ben Flower: Shaun Wane 'will stand by' dismissed Wigan prop

By Nathan MiddletonBBC Sport at Old Trafford
Flower sent off for punch as Saints win

Wigan coach Shaun Wane says he "will stand by" prop Ben Flower after he was sent off for punching Lance Hohaia in their Grand Final defeat by St Helens.

Flower was shown a red card after two minutes, firstly knocking Hohaia to the floor and then landing a second punch while the half-back was on the ground.

The 26-year-old became the first player ever to be sent off in a Grand Final.

"It's a huge error today and we just move on," said Wane. "I make mistakes and he's made one today."

How Twitter reacted to Ben Flower's red card
Barrow Police:external-link "When out and about tonight don't act like @WiganWarriorsRL Ben Flower or you will end up #bangedupinbarrow"
QPR midfielder Joey Barton:external-link "Actually feel a bit sorry for Ben Flower. Lance started it with his elbow. Superb first dig from Flower. Second when he's KO'd is out of order."
Former England rugby union player Brian Moore:external-link "Ben Flower - his first punch was retaliation for a cheap shot on him; second one was unforgiveable."
Former Wigan winger Martin Offiah:external-link "Second punch Flower threw was over the top but in Rugby League if you forearm somebody in the face you can't complain if he clocks you one. If I had done what Lance did I'd expect a slap. Lance Hohaia will never attack Ben Flower again. Not condoning second punch on a prone player."
Former England striker Gary Lineker:external-link "If only other team sports could match the on-field behaviour of football."
Former England striker Michael Owen:external-link "In China but just seen those punches. First one was shocking but the second one was a disgrace. Can you imagine the outcry if a footballer did that? To hit someone again when they are already out cold is hard to understand."

Asked how he could defend the punch, Wane responded: "You can't. It's a rush of blood.

"It's the Wigan-Saints derby and everybody is getting whacked off the ball and he made an error.

"He'll be really upset with what he's done to his team-mates, but that's just the character and why we love Ben Flower so much.

"The RFL will deal with the punishment accordingly, and whatever he gets, I'll stand by him. I'll make sure he understands that sort of thing can't happen again."

Flower's punishment will be decided by an independent tribunal convened this week.

The maximum penalty is a four to eight game suspension but this can be increased if thought necessary.

Rugby League chief executive Nigel Wood told BBC Radio 5 live: "We have a very extensive disciplinary process and a range of sanctions.

"The guidelines are there for a purpose but the panel could go outside them if they felt it was necessary."

Wigan led 6-2 at half-time, despite playing with one man less, but their tiring side were eventually beaten 14-6 at Old Trafford as St Helens ended their eight-year wait to be crowned champions.

Wane's side were looking to defend the title they won last year, but could not hold on as St Helens made the extra man count in the second half as Sia Soliola and Tommy Makinson both went over.

Much of the build-up to the Grand Final had been dominated by both head coaches talking about the rivalry between the two clubs.

Ben Flower is sent off in the 2014 Grand Final
Ben Flower became the first player ever to be sent off in a Grand Final

The tone was set from the very first hit of the match, when Wigan prop Dom Crosby was propelled backwards by an onrushing Saints defence, in what was an intense atmosphere within the stadium.

New Zealand international Hohaia collided late with Flower shortly afterwards, leading to the game's flashpoint, which left referee Phil Bentham with little alternative but to send Flower from the field.

"There is that feeling between the two clubs," continued Wane. "But there is also a lot of mutual respect which I have for St Helens and hopefully they have for my club as well.

"It's rugby league. It tipped over the edge - that's all - and we got the brunt of it. It's very, very hard to keep a lid on things when there is so much at stake between two really, really intense clubs.

"I'm devastated we lost, but we showed the main characteristics in a man for me - guts, determination and desire, and all my players have that. I thought we could have won the game and that was my mindset.

St Helens v Wigan brawl
A mass brawl ensued following Ben Flower's two punches on Lance Hohaia

"Saints were worthy winners. The pressure they were under after five consecutive Grand Final losses, I can't imagine, because I feel bad enough as it is today."

Hohaia was unable to return the field because of concussion, leaving St Helens head coach Nathan Brown in little doubt that Bentham's decision had been the correct one.

"I haven't seen anything like it in a Grand Final in my 25-odd years," said Brown.

"I think he's served a fair punishment. He got what he deserved and he'll be thinking at the moment, 'I cost my side a Grand Final'.

"He's served his time and the good thing for us is that Lance hasn't broken anything."