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'SORRY' MAY NOT SAVE THUG FROM A LIFE BAN; Hohaia ready to forgive Flower for this brutal attack.. but the sport will not.

Byline: TREVOR BAXTER Rugby League Correspondent

SHAMED Ben Flower issued a grovelling apology for his vicious Grand Final attack on Lance Hohaia as he faced the prospect of a lifetime ban.

Wigan are standing by their disgraced forward, with last season's double winners also saying 'sorry' for the flashpoint that marred the showpiece.

Flower's second-minute assault on New Zealander Hohaia (above) brought him a red card from referee Phil Bentham and led to widespread revulsion.

"I'll have to live with this for the rest of my career," he said. "There is no defence for my actions but I have never gone on to a rugby field to injure a fellow player.

"It happened in the heat of the moment when our emotions and adrenaline was running high. I instantly regretted it and am devastated that I allowed myself to punch someone like this."

Hohaia, though, refused to condemn Flower and insisted: "I am not a person who holds grudges.

"Would I accept an apology? Of course. Sometimes people do silly things in the heat of the moment."

Asked if he thought Flower should be prosecuted Hohaia added: "No, not at all. Those things are best left on the field."

Saints went on to win 14-6 (below, celebrating). But Flower could yet be thrown out of rugby. The game's match review panel meet later today to examine the footage.

RFL rules state: "There is no place for acts of intentional violence or thuggery."

Flower added: "At Wigan we are known for being aggressive but we are constantly told to do this within the rules of the game and that punching isn't tough. We may aim to dominate teams, but we don't aim to hurt people.

"I offer my apologies to Lance. I have full respect for him. I'd also like to say sorry to my team-mates, our fans and the Wigan club. I know I've let them down like never before.

"Finally, I'm sorry to the sport of rugby league. It was a big night and I know I've taken the attention away from what was a special event."

Wigan chairman and owner, Ian Lenagan, plus coach Shaun Wane called Flower's actions: "Totally inappropriate."

Team-mate Matty Smith said: "He's a great lad and we love him to bits. But there are no excuses for the red card. You can't do that."

HOCK AND OFFIAH SPARK TWITTER FAN BACKLASH

FORMER Wigan stars Martin Offiah and Gareth Hock sparked a Twitter backlash after defending Ben Flower.

Salford hard man Hock told his 7,000 followers: "bennyflower keep ya head up..he deserved it; picked on the wrong person."

Hot-head Hock added: "Dnt care what you all say he shudn't of elbowed him first." He told one "that's sick you stupid c*** I'd love to see you say that to my face."

Offiah angered many with his Tweet: "You play with fire you get burnt. Lance Ohia (sic) will never attack Flower again.

"You don't attack props and there was provocation. If that makes me satan so be it. Saints fans Tweeting they want me to die from Ebola."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 13, 2014
Words:515
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