A couple of rugby league legends were left baffled when Dolphins centre Euan Aitken escaped a penalty of any kind after appearing to perform a hip-drop tackle on Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak on Saturday.
It looked as though Aitken cut Watene-Zelezniak down with a hip-drop tackle in the Warriors’ clash with the Dolphins in Auckland, won by the New Zealand outfit 30-18, but referee Grant Atkins neither blew a penalty nor sent the Dolphins star from the field.
In general terms, a hip-drop tackle is constituted by a defender gripping the ball-carrier, swivelling, dropping their hips and landing their weight on the lower half of the player’s body. The tackle can trap one or both of the ball-carrier’s legs, causing serious injury.
The NRL has cracked down on hip-drop tackles this season, showing little hesitation in sin-binning players and handing out heavy suspensions.
Speaking at half-time of the Warriors’ match against the Dolphins, Cooper Cronk said the referee’s decision to not penalise Aitkens was “a little bit weird”.
“I think the commentators were a little perplexed by it and I’m perplexed,” Crook said on the Fox League coverage.
“DWZ has got momentum, he’s gone through the tackle. Aitken has lost the tackle, turned around, lost feet.
“I’m not sure where that sits.”
Mal Meninga was also astounded by the referee’s decision.
“I think it’s a hip-drop,” said the rugby league Immortal on the Fox League broadcast.
“I think he’ll be charged and (receive) some sort of penalty on that.
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“He quite easily could have dropped his hands. He could have quite easily wrapped his arms around the lower part of the legs.
“That’s a definite hip-drop.”
Cronk said Aitken should have spent 10 minutes off the field.
“I think it’s a sin-bin,” said the Storm and Roosters champion.
“DWZ, because he’s not injured as much, played on, which is good.
“But from what we’ve been used to, that’s a sin-bin.”
The Warriors only led 6-4 at half-time but dominated after the break, running in four tries to the visitors’ one.
The round 14 match saw Shaun Johnson and Watene-Zelezniak bag a double each as Luke Metcalf crossed for a try of his own, while Tesi Niu and Jamayne Isaako scored tries for the Dolphins.
The fixture marked the Dolphins’ first match outside Australia.
The Warriors will meet the Raiders in Canberra next Friday night, while the Dolphins will face the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval on the same night.
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