Cameron Munster's exit after just two minutes proved to be one of the defining moments of a horror Origin Game II for Queensland.
The Maroons five-eighth's head knock added injury to insult as the Queenslanders were humbled 34-10 by NSW to send the State of Origin series to a deciding Game III in Brisbane next week.
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Munster had to be taken from the field for a concussion test after landing on his head, following a heavy collision with NSW forward Tyson Frizell.
The 26-year-old was wobbly on his feet as he attempted to stand up and was escorted up the tunnel by Maroons medical staff.
Frizell was racing through to try and gather a kick from Nathan Cleary, which Munster managed to defuse in his own in-goal area.
Realising he was second to the footy, the Blues forward wrapped his arms around Munster before the Maroons player came crashing down heavily to the turf.
Referee Gerard Sutton didn't see anything in the incident that warranted a penalty but angry Maroons fans were convinced Frizell tackled their player in the air and should have been penalised.
Writing for Queensland's Courier Mail, journalist Travis Meyn described it as an "illegal" tackle that should see Frizell charged with dangerous contact.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) November 11, 2020
"Munster was airborne in Queensland’s in-goal when he defused a bomb, only to be taken out by Blues forward Tyson Frizell,” Meyn wrote.
"With his feet in the air, Munster was defenceless as he was caught by Frizell, causing his head to slam into the ground.
"Frizell made no attempt to play for the ball, instead collecting Munster and causing him to suffer a head injury severe enough to miss 78 minutes of the game."
Plenty of outraged viewers agreed that Frizell should have been punished over the incident.
Frizell no eyes for the ball, tackles Munster mid air after he catches the ball. Is that not illegal?
— Matt James 🇦🇺 (@Mattjamess) November 11, 2020
Nsw definitely playing better and deserve the win but the refs early on definitely in their favour. Same as the grand final, feels like the games are being decided by refs.
— Matt James 🇦🇺 (@Mattjamess) November 11, 2020
Tackled in the air??
Thought that was against the rules?
— Trevor Wilton (@TrevorWilton2) November 11, 2020
— ❌ TC (@tcgong) November 12, 2020
So in minute 77 when Ben Hunt competes for the ball.. that’s tackling a player in the air.
But in the first minute when Frizell slammed Munster off a tackle in the air.. it warrants no penalty..
— Zane Bojack (@zanofc) November 11, 2020
Other viewers didn't see the incident the same way, however.
Many fans disagreed with the assertion that Frizell wasn't competing for the footy and suggested a suspension would be harsh on the Blues forward.
"Taken out" haha okay champ
— RJ (@pennypanther83) November 11, 2020
Silly. That's a standard run of the mill challenge that resulted in an accidental head knock.
Nothing malicious here.
— Abs (@absdah1) November 11, 2020
That’s as stupid as Gus saying Penrith were on top 😂
— luke (@mr_champ03) November 11, 2020
If you're a serious Origin fan get back in your box!
— David Mooney (@dmooney149) November 11, 2020
Maroons coach Wayne Bennett refused to blame Frizell for the incident that rubbed his star five-eighth out of the contest.
“I didn’t see it well enough. It probably looked to me like he hit his own head going down on the ground,” Bennett said.
“I haven’t seen the vision well enough to have a real definitive point of view.”
Maroons star to be closely monitored before decider
Munster must now pass stringent concussion guidelines if he is to play the Origin decider in Brisbane next Wednesday.
The Maroons five-eighth will be monitored over the coming days for concussion symptoms, despite passing the HIA test during Game II.
Queensland's team doctor Matt Hislop took to Twitter to clarify reports Munster had failed a head injury assessment, saying his 'category 1' symptom of poor balance meant he was unable to return to the field regardless of his HIA results.
Category 1 symptoms include loss of consciousness, no protective action in falling to the ground, confusion and disorientation and motor incoordination.
After whacking his head into the ground as he took a kick in goal, Munster struggled to get to his feet and fell over twice before he was helped from the field.
Hislop said Munster passed the HIA which includes a series of questions in the medical room, but his 'cat 1' symptoms after the hit were enough to rule him out of the game.
Munster will now need to pass a six-stage concussion protocol with no setbacks to be cleared to play.
"Players are rested and monitored for signs of deterioration," Hislop Tweeted.
"A repeat SCAT 5 is performed and if passed a graduated return to play is commenced.
"Prior to starting contact a player must pass an additional computer based cognigram test.
"The NRL have clear guidelines on safely returning a concussed player to sport.
"Thankfully most 'simple' concussions resolve completely within 7-10 days (in adults)."
Importantly, the Queensland coach said Munster appeared "fine" in the sheds following the game, saying he's confident the star will be cleared to play in the decider.
"All indications are that he's fine. He has no history of head knocks, which helps," Bennett said.
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