Wigan’s Ben Flower has been banned for 13 matches over his shocking Super League grand final attack on St Helens’ Lance Hohaia, the Rugby Football League has announced.
Hohaia struck Flower with his forearm in the second minute of Saturday’s match at Old Trafford and the Wales forward retaliated by punching him to the ground and then striking him in the face as he lay on his back.
Flower, 26, admitted to a Grade F offence at an RFL disciplinary tribunal in Leeds and will not be able to play again until April next year.
“Ben Flower of @WiganWarriorsRL banned until April 14 2015 after being found guilty of Grade F violent and aggressive punching v @Saints1890,” the RFL said in a posting on its official Twitter page.
Flower will miss 13 matches, including two pre-season trials, Wigan’s World Club Challenge meeting with Brisbane on February 21, and the first 10 games of the 2015 Super League campaign.
It is the second-longest ban of the Super League era, after the seven-month suspension handed to the late former Wigan hooker Terry Newton in 2005 for assaults on St Helens pair Lee Gilmour and Sean Long.
Wigan general manager Kris Radlinski said that Flower would not appeal against the RFL’s verdict.
New Zealand international Hohaiha, 31, had earlier accepted a one-match suspension after submitting an early-guilty plea to a less serious Grade B charge.
St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus extended the olive branch to Flower after the announcement.
“The sport of rugby league should not be judged by this event, but by how it deals with it.
“We must assist (Flower) in any way that we can and accept him back into the sport. There is a person behind the player, and I am reliably informed by all that it is a good one.”
Flower, the first player to be sent off in a Super League grand final, apologised for his actions in a statement released by Wigan on Sunday, saying he was “devastated” about what he had done.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Radlinski read out a statement in which he apologised on Flower’s behalf.
“Wigan Warriors would like to go on record in saying that the RFL disciplinary committee handled a very difficult situation with professionalism and integrity,” he said.
“We fully support their assessment of Saturday night’s incident involving our player, Ben Flower. We will be making no appeal.
“We would like to apologise to Lance Hohaia and his family and to the St Helens club and fans. St Helens’ win on Saturday has been overshadowed by the incident and that is wrong.”
He added: “Ben has issued an apology and is very regretful and full of remorse for his actions. We will work hard to try repair any damage caused to the reputation of rugby league.”