Knowles’ overturned ban leaves a bitter taste for Super League supporters


St. Helens star forward Morgan Knowles will be available for Saturday’s Grand Final after a successful appeal against his two-match ban.

Knowles was sin-binned during their semi-final win over Salford for twisting the arm of an opponent during a tackle, his conduct was initially deemed to be worth a Grade B charge for dangerous contact with an opponent. This was later overturned after an appeal.

However, it wasn’t the first appeal, it was the second, creating a great deal of controversy. The match review panel initially used law 15.1. Dangerous Contact, to hand Knowles a two-game suspension, after he appeared to twist the arm of Chris Atkin to slow the ‘play the ball’ down.

St. Helens appealed the decision, only for it to be rejected, leaving both sides to prepare for a Grand Final that wouldn’t involve England’s loose forward. However, the Saints were adamant that Knowles had not abused the law and put in a second appeal based on contradictories involved in the first.

They saw the evidence to be inconclusive and thought there was contradictory points in the match review panel’s report. The initial statement said that although Knowles did not bend Atkin’s arm beyond the normal range of movement, it did cause an unacceptable risk of injury. Therefore, it was these two points that the Saints used against each other to have the decision overturned.

They argued that if the arm was not bent beyond the normal range of movement, then there could not have been any risk of injury, a point that the match review panel later agreed with.

After a third time reviewing the incident, Knowles’ ban was overturned, leaving the 25-year-old available for the biggest game of the season. So far this year he has made 25 appearances in all competitions scoring four tries and he will most likely have a big role to play in a crucial fixture.

Ever since breaking through to the Saints first squad he has been a key figure in a side that has won three Super League titles in a row, this led him to inclusions in the Super League dream team also three years in a row.

When Saints coach Kristian Woolf was asked about the outcome ahead of the Grand Final, he said: “We were confident going into the appeal. I didn’t think it was a dangerous situation at all. We felt we could defend ourselves in a second appeal based off a few contradictory points in the rejection of our first appeal.”

He then went on to add: “It’s a process that has to be there. You have the right to defend yourself in every walk of life and if things aren’t exactly right, then you have every right to appeal. The lateness can’t be helped, I don’t agree with every decision, but I think it has been a fair process and one that I’m pleased with.”

Leeds Rhinos had some different opinions on the matter and were left unhappy with the outcome.

Head coach Rohan Smith, was asked if he was surprised by the successful second appeal, to which he responded: “Nothing surprises me with that process anymore. It’s probably good for the game and for the World Cup too, but I don’t want to comment too much.”

Smith was obviously not pleased with the decision and is clearly making a slight dig at the match committee and review panel. He was one of the many people that believe one appeal should be enough to call it. The overturned decision on the second attempt created an uproar on social media, with the majority of opinions in favour of Knowles’ ban staying put.

So, does the match review panel need to change their rules or continue with the way it is? The outcome can be argued about forever, as some will believe Knowles did nothing wrong and some will believe he did. However, it was the way they came to the decision that created the outrage amongst fans.

Although the whole situation was controversial and probably could have been dealt with better, ff St. Helens do go on to win the Grand Final with Knowles’ help, then it will surely rub more salt in the wounds for Leeds whilst this debate could go on for a while longer.

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