Sky Sports pundit accuses Leigh’s John Asiata of ‘trying to incite reaction’ with tackle

Aaron Bower

Sky Sports pundit Jon Wilkin has suggested that John Asiata tried to incite an aggressive reaction with the tackle that saw him sin-binned just 41 seconds into Leigh’s game at St Helens on Friday: branding the forward a ‘pantomime villain’.

Asiata was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on St Helens forward Sione Mata’utia not dissimilar to the ones that ended the seasons of both Alex Walmsley and Agnatius Paasi in last year’s Challenge Cup semi-final. Those tackles provoked a huge reaction from Saints coach Paul Wellens, and led to extended discussions about the validity of Asiata’s tackle technique.

The Leigh forward then waved to the crowd after being shown a yellow card on Friday evening – before returning to the field and then leaving again due to a serious-looking injury. And Wilkin did not hold back in his views on Sky Sports at half-time on Friday night.

“I can’t believe he’s come into this game and done that,” Wilkin said.

“After what happened. I can’t believe he’s come into the game and that’s gone through his mind to attempt to do a tackle like that. Whether that’s illegal or not, the rules have changed.

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“It’s almost identical to the ones that ended two players’ seasons last year. If you’re coming to this ground tonight to do that, you’re trying to incite an aggressive reaction and trying to wind people up. He’s walking off the field waving to the fans.. he’s like a circus clown.. pantomime villain.”

Love Rugby League revealed earlier this week that the Leopards have opened discussions with Asiata with a view to extending his deal that expires at the end of the current season, amidst talk of renewed interest from NRL clubs.

But in the short-term, Leigh will be watching on with trepidation to see whether or not Asiata is charged by the match review panel – and indeed, how bad the injury that forced him from the field is.

When asked about the tackle post-match, Saints coach Paul Wellens refused to be drawn on commenting too much. He said: “I don’t want to get too caught up in it. The directive has gone out to all the club regarding that type of tackle. I don’t want to say too much, he’s left the field on crutches and we hope he’s back to full fitness soon.”

But Leopards coach Adrian Lam certainly did not hold back, saying the decision to sin-bin Asiata was ‘outrageous’. He said: “John’s first point of contact was above the leg and slid down. A fair call was a penalty against, but to sin-bin a player for that is outrageous. It’s where we’re at right now.”

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