Brown bows out in style

Published: Saturday 11th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Nathan Brown bowed out of English rugby league as a champion but St Helens’ 14-6 Grand Final victory over bitter rivals Wigan was overshadowed by Ben Flower’s moment of madness.

The Old Trafford showpiece was only two minutes old when the Wales prop floored Saints half-back Lance Hohaia with a punch after taking exception to a forearm to the face and then struck the New Zealander again as he laid motionless on the ground.

Referee Phil Bentham pulled out his red card and Flower became the first player in Grand Final history to leave his side down to 12 men.

The incident ended both players’ participation in the match, with Brown revealing Hohaia legally could not return to the field “because his concussion was too bad”.

The Australian coach, returning home for family reasons, felt Flower left Bentham with no choice but to send him off, although he stopped short of calling for further retribution.

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

“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.”

Opposite number Shaun Wane said: “I’m not going to try to (defend Flower).

“It’s a red; he’s punched him in the head and deserved to go.

“He’s devastated. He’s made a huge error today but we just move on, we’re all in it together. I’ve made mistakes and he’s made one today.”

The depleted Warriors battled heroically and took a deserved lead on the stroke of half-time when Joe Burgess went over in the corner.

Sia Soliola edged Saints back ahead in the 53rd minute but Wigan remained in the hunt for the most memorable of Grand Final victories heading into the final 10 minutes.

Tommy Makinson ultimately broke the Warriors’ resistance with a try next to the sticks and ensured St Helens would end a run of five successive defeats at Old Trafford.

Wane added: “I’m really proud of the desire we showed to stick at it. We broke them time and time again and could have scored more tries.

“I thought we could have won the game and that was my mind-set (after the red card). It would have been a great victory for us.

“Keeping them to 14-6 with no Micky Mac (injured hooker Michael McIlorum) and Ben was a great effort but Saints were worthy winners.”

For Brown, his six-year stay in England came to an end in the best way possible.

“My job is done,” said the former St George Illawarra and Huddersfield Giants coach.

“If I stayed around next year it would have been for money and while that’s good, it’s not the right thing to do to the club because they are a champion club.

“Every coach wants to come and coach St Helens because it is one of the greatest clubs in the world and has a great roster.

“But for me it’s just family. We have missed them and I’m that happy to be going home from a family point of view.

“We’ll miss England but next year when Saints get to the Challenge Cup final Rushy (Mike Rush) is going to fly me in to watch!”

Published: Saturday 11th October 2014 by The News Editor

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