Penrith Panthers vs. Cronulla Sharks, Dale Finucane high tackle, header over Stephen Crichton, spark controversy

The Penrith Panthers extended their winning streak to nine after toppling Cronulla Sharks 20-10 at Penrith.

But the dominant Panthers, who opened a 10-point lead at the top of the ladder as the team strives for a back-to-back premiership

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The Sharks certainly did no harm to the score, and I took them to the Panthers throughout the competition and were only eliminated by Jarom Loay’s attempt in the 78th minute.

But 10 minutes before the full-time game ended, Blues and Panthers’ Stephen Crichton was dizzy from a powerful blow from Del Finucane.

The attackers came off the line and put the beast on Crichton, and while his teammates slapped him on the back, commentators weren’t sure.

“Finucane came with the plane. They pat him on the back, but I’m not sure about the style,” Andrew Foss said on Fox League.

“It was a round house. It wasn’t there, I’d hit it around the hips. It was nothing of Johnny Rapper’s proof.

“This is a moment.”

Even former shark star Michael Ennis thought Finucane was in trouble.

“Shoulder to head,” Innes said.

“He’s just a very stubborn Del Finucane. He had no respect for his body. He just got fired at Crichton.

“I don’t think he knew where he wanted to hit him. He just wanted to hit him. He was trying to force a foul.

“He’s not a dirty player. There’s no malice in that from Finucane, but it’s head-touching.”

But while the Panthers’ fans were seeking blood, the bunker decided that Finucane had no reason to fight back.

“We don’t think he’s driving with the head, it’s just interference,” Klein told Panthers co-captain Nathan Cleary.

Ennis reconsidered and thought it might have been a head-on collision.

But after the match, it was clear that Crichton had lost a significant portion of his ear as he was immediately taken off the field for a head injury assessment.

After the unsettling match, Crichton spoke to ABC Radio and said he was still coming.

“I’m probably only getting my senses back now, I don’t really remember what happened either, so yeah, I’m starting to get my memory back now,” Crichton said.

Asked if he remembered the game at all, he said, “Nah, no.”

Fans were quick to respond to the incident.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” wrote Illawarra Mercury sports editor Tim Barrow.

NRL reporter Brad Walter responded, “It’s just a head-on but shows the danger of being fired off the line. If Finucane’s shoulder is the first point of contact, he’ll be looking forward to 6 weeks.”

At his post-match press conference, Cleary confirmed that Crichton would be heading to the hospital to see a plastic surgeon.

“He’s seen better days but he’s in better spirits than he can remember,” Cleary said.

“First, with Dale Finucane, the last thing he wanted to do was hit Creta. I know historically the header was a header collision, but I just think how easy it is to drop a high penalty now, it looked bad and Creta wasn’t in a great way.

“Definitely an argument for neglect I think that’s the game and the explanations right now.”

Penrith’s captain, Issa Yu, said he thought it looked “ugly”.

Cleary added that he believed the Panthers would get the punishment.

“Obviously this is head-touching, kicking him out, I don’t know if you’ve seen his ear, but that looks like a car accident,” Cleary said. “It’s weird that that’s okay, but the lightest number of clicks is sometimes not so good.”

Shark trainer Craig Fitzgibbon said he doesn’t think Finucane has anything to worry about.

“He hit his head right in the face,” said the shark trainer.

“His arm dangling after. It was such a big head bump from what I saw, his arms rose amazingly after that. But even though it was great head contact for me.”

Finucane told Fox League after the match that he was just trying to inspire his troops.

“I think it was just at that time that we needed points and a change in momentum,” Finucane said.

“This was all just a last-ditch attempt to change a bit of the momentum. It wasn’t enough to change the outcome for us.”

With Curtis Woodward, NCA Newswire

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