Last Friday’s clash between Leeds and St Helens was played at a ferocious (almost playoff-like) intensity, and so it didn’t surprise me in the slightest that it got a bit testy. Reading that two Leeds players received one game suspensions. Likewise, it was not at all surprising to see that Jamie Jones-Buchanan had received a one-match ban for one of the more blatant examples of an attempt at joint-manipulation even though the RFL have refused to classify it as such. Looking at JJB’s disciplinary meeting, it looks like he only got a one game ban (for an essentially meaningless game) because of a good record. Hopefully he sticks to that in the future, because the chicken wing is something that we really don’t need in the game.
What JJB did is now commonly referred to as a chicken-wing tackle. It has many similarities with the move in jujitsu known as the Kimura, where the Here is a picture of one from grapplearts.com:
In sport jujitsu, it’s fair enough to have a go at performing one of these moves because it’s part of the rules, and it’s hard to pull off the move when someone is expecting it and can fight back. In James Graham’s case, he couldn’t fight back because he was already being held down by another player. JJB has been let off slightly, because the RFL decided that it wasn’t a chicken-wing tackle as such: he was just trying to put Graham on his back. I wonder if that’s besides the point – plenty of high shots aren’t premeditated, but they still incur a hefty penalty. Rugby League is a physical game, and players no doubt expect to receive serious injuries during the course of the season. They have enough to worry about without the opposition trying to tear their limbs from their joints.
It honestly crossed my mind during the Leeds-Saints match that the Rhinos might be trying to deliberately injure Graham. Of course, I rid the thought from my mind because it seems like an overly high-risk strategy. However, what I do think is likely is that the Rhinos targeted Graham with the aim of wearing him down with the playoffs fast approaching. It’s a fair tactic to run at a player all game to wear them out (props run at halfbacks all the time) but the line between wearing a player out and deliberately sidelining them with injury is becoming blurred. I actually don’t have a problem with the proliferation of grappling martial arts as tools of slowing down attacking moves because I think it helps increase the defensive intensity, but I do have problems with them being used as offensive weapons. Luckily this has never really been such a big issue in Super League, and somebody needs to act fast to make sure it stays that way.