Raiders star Seb Kris was sent off following an ugly spear tackle that Sharks winger Sione Katoa was lucky to walk away from on Sunday.
Canberra were trailing 10-6 but looking to take the lead with 21 minutes to play when Jamal Fogarty put a kick up for Jack Wighton who leapt high but couldn’t come down with it to score.
Instead it was Katoa who plucked it out of the air and was then running it off his own line when Kris picked him up and drilled him into the ground.
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Katoa landed on the point of his head which sparked an immediate reaction from teammate Jesse Ramien who went after Kris, who to his credit checked on his rival straight away.
The crowd then started chanting “off, off, off” and referee Grant Atkins had no choice but to march the Raiders winger.
Canberra are playing finals but Kris’ season is almost certainly over with the match review committee likely to hand down a lengthy ban on Monday morning.
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Raiders coach Ricky Stuart infamously blew up at journalists in 2019 after refusing to accept a similar incident that got Nick Cotric sent off against the Dragons was a spear tackle.
This time Stuart said he hadn’t watched a replay and only offered the tackle was “unfortunate” and that his side needed more “luck” in the game, but Green Machine captain Elliott Whitehead accepted it was a send off.
“I didn’t make anything of it, I haven’t seen it again,” Stuart said when asked about the tackle.
Kris became the fourth NRL player sent off this season and first Raider since Corey Harawira-Naera in 2021.
Katoa was able to continue and Cronulla took just one minute to take advantage of the extra man when Braydon Trindall scored down the other end.
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“The Seb Kris tackle, it looks bad and there’s no doubt about that but as players you know yourself how easily that tackle happens,” Matty Johns said.
“There’s no doubt that in no way shape or form was it deliberate.”
Nathan Hindmarsh added: “It just happens. You can see he lands on his head but Seb Kris has realised halfway through that tackle that he’s not going to drive him (into the ground). He’s pulled out of it but unfortunately he’s pulled out a little too late.”
The Sharks ran out 24-6 victors and will now host the Roosters in an elimination final next weekend.
The Raiders will now have travel to Newcastle next Sunday and try and end the Knights’ nine-game winning streak in the second elimination final.