The high tackle by Jarome Luai, a key player for the Panthers, on Melbourne’s Nelson Asofa-Solomona, has caused a stir in the rugby world. Despite his track record of similar maneuvres and accusations of utilising an illegal shoulder charge, the Panthers playmaker narrowly avoided a suspension.
The NRL categorised Luai’s controversial tackling as a careless high tackle, resulting in a minimal fine of $3000. Many were expecting the conduct to be evaluated as an illicit shoulder charge which would have led to a substantial suspension period.
During the game, Luai noticeably initiated contact with Asofa-Solomona by leading with his shoulder and leaving the ground. Sports commentators consequently predicted a severe penalty for Luai, with a sabbatical of at least two game weeks anticipated.
Post-game, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary made comments regarding the incident. “I’ve only seen the one angle. I’m not too sure,” he conceded after the Panthers‘ triumphant 28-18 victory over the Melbourne Storm. “It’s a little fly against a big giant. I dunno. We’ll just wait and see.”
Notwithstanding the controversy, Luai stayed on the field post-incident.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy conceded that the task to prevent Penrith from securing a third consecutive premiership was formidable. As it stands, Penrith leads the ladder with four rounds left in play.
Winning a top-two finish would guarantee Penrith a home-ground advantage for the qualifying final. Impressively, Penrith has suffered only two home game defeats in 2023, both against Brisbane in the first round, and subsequently St Helens in the World Club Challenge. Both losses were by a minuscule margin of one point.
The Melbourne coach further acknowledged Penrith’s ascendancy in the past few years. “They’ve been the team for three or four years now and they seem to get a little bit more resilient every year,” Bellamy stated.
He recognised Penrith as a formidable competitor saying, “They’re a really tough team to beat and you’ve got to do a whole heap of things right and you’ve got to do them for 80 minutes if you’re going to have a chance.”
However, stopping them is an entirely different matter. “You have to play the long game, the patient game with them if you’re going to have success. I don’t think their game plan is too hard to see but stopping it, that’s another thing.”