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Brad Fittler has lashed out at referee Gerard Sutton's decision to sin-bin Matt Burton in the State of Origin decider after a punch-up with Queensland rival Dane Gagai.
Burton and Gagai were both sent to the bin for throwing punches as things boiled over late in the first half at Suncorp Stadium.
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Gagai took exception to Burton running into the back of Kalyn Ponga as he was getting up off the ground (which appeared to be unintentional), making a bee-line for his opposite number in backplay as Daly Cherry-Evans made a break.
Gagai and Burton then appeared to throw punches at exactly the same time before Tino Fa'asuamaleaui put Burton in a headlock and dragged him to the ground.
Players from both sides then entered the fray in an ugly melee that took several minutes to break up.
Gagai and Burton were both sin-binned in the aftermath, but Fittler wasn't happy that his player was marched.
"He didn't initiate it, he's not going to fight anyone," Fittler said in his post-match press conference.
"He got belted, got the penalty, got in a headlock and we walk out with one player down each. Tad ridiculous, but it is what it is."
NSW captain James Tedesco suggested Fa’asuamaleaui should have also been sent to the bin.
“Yeah I thought so,” he said.
“I don’t know if he actually threw a punch, but I thought if he did he should have been sin-binned as well.
“That’s why he said Gagai was sin-binned because he threw punches, so I don’t know if Tino did that as well, but yeah. I asked actually and he said ....”
Fittler then interjected: “Maybe ask the refs that. Let’s not dwell on that.”
Burton and Gagai avoid suspension after fight
Origin games were once known for descending into all-in brawls but the NRL has taken a no-nonsense approach to fighting in recent years.
Klein's approach was consistent with what we say in Origin II in 2020, when Fa'asuamaleaui and Payne Haas were both binned for trading blows.
Burton and Gagai have been given a fine worth 23 per cent of their match fee with early guilty pleas and should both be available for Canterbury and Newcastle this weekend respectively.
Gagai was relieved when he learned of the news that he wouldn't miss any club games, while a crestfallen Burton struggled to comprehend the loss as he sported a big black eye.
The Canterbury centre was inconsolable after the 22-12 defeat and insisted he had not sustained a fracture to his cheek or eye socket.
"Whatever happens on the field stays on the field," Burton said.
"You don't want to get sent off and it obviously affects the team.
"The ref controlled the game and that's up to his decision and that's footy.
"I'm not the ref, he makes the decisions and that's his call. It was obviously disappointing to not get the result."
The only other player charged from the game was Fa'asuamaleaui, who hit Burton with a high shot in the ninth minute.
The Titans captain faces a 20 per cent reduction in his match fee if he pleads guilty and will be cleared to play for Gold Coast against Brisbane on Saturday.
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