Jarome Luai in surprise fallout as NRL world lashes 'farcical' scenes

The Panthers star found himself at the centre of a controversy that left viewers fuming on Friday night.

Pictured here is Penrith star Jarome Luai making contact with his shoulder to the head of Melbourne's Nelson Asofa-Solomona.

Penrith star Jarome Luai haș escaped suspension after a high shot on Melbourne's Nelson Asofa-Solomona on Friday night, that many fans insist should have resulted in a sin bin for the Panthers five-eighth. On the same night Gold Coast prop Mo Fotuaika was controversially sent off for a similar high shot in the match against the Warriors, Luai stayed on the field as Penrith flexed their premiership muscles with a 26-6 thumping of the fourth-placed Storm.

Luai was put on report after appearing to launch off his feet and hit Asofa-Solomona in the head with his shoulder early in the second half. The Penrith playmaker was hit with a grade 1 charge for a careless high tackle but the NRL Match Review Committee reviewed the incident and deemed it warranted nothing more than a fine, with Luai avoiding suspension.

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Luai made no attempt to wrap his arm around Asofa-Solomona as his shoulder made contact with the Storm big man and forced him to spill the ball on Friday night. The Samoan international already had two previous charges against his name this year, but his coach Ivan Cleary downplayed the incident after the game.

"I have only seen the one angle," the Panthers coach said. "I'm not too sure, it's like a little fly against a big giant so we'll just wait and see."

NRL inconsistency slammed after Jarome Luai shot

Many fans across the NRL world saw the incident very differently, however, and questioned how Luai stayed on the field when Titans prop Fotuaika was sent off for a similar high shot in the game before. Fotuaika became the second player in 24 hours to be given his marching orders due to forceful shoulder contact to the head, with viewers accusing the NRL of gross inconsistency.

Luai scored a try and was involved in a number of flash points in a win that largely confirmed the ladder-leaders were the team to beat as they chase a third successive premiership. Luai claimed he was slapped in the head after a scuffle resulting from a tackle that sent Storm centre Marion Seve over the touch line.

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Controversy aside, the Panthers underlined their premiership credentials with a dominant display that makes it 33 wins from their last 36 games at home, since the start of 2020. "We were on the wrong end of field position and possession in that second half and they threw plenty at us," Cleary said. "It's really good against a quality team that we just kept finding a way to turn up."

The Storm took an unexpectedly early lead when Young Tonumaipea made a retreating Penrith defence pay in the 15th minute. That was about as good as it got for the visitors, who saw winger George Jennings limp off with a suspected MCL injury, joining Jahrome Hughes, Xavier Coates and Reimis Smith in the casualty ward.

Seen here, Brian To'o scoring a try for Penrith against Melbourne in the NRL.
Brian To'o scored two tries in an impressive win for Penrith over Melbourne in the NRL. Pic: Getty

A routine finish in the corner allowed Brian To'o to level for the Panthers before Luai and Stephen Crichton crossed to put them 20-6 up at halftime. To'o added his second try after the break as the Storm failed to breach the Panthers' line in the final 40 minutes.

"We didn't shoot ourselves in the foot, we blew our feet off," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said afterwards. "We looked for shortcuts and you've got be squeaky clean to go with them. It was a disappointing first half, all the errors we made - there were dumb things that we did that put pressure on us, and took a lot of pressure off them."

with AAP

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