Blues five-eighth Jarome Luai has come under fire for standing over stricken Queensland flyer Selwyn Cobbo in what was an explosive opening to the State of Origin decider.
Cobbo was left prone on the ground after a sickening collision with a Maroons teammate Patrick Carrigan, the third brutal head knock in the opening minutes after Cameron Murray and Lindsay Collins were also forced off with HIAs.
But it was the image of Luai standing over a concussed Cobbo that enraged Queensland players and immediately sparked an all-in brawl.
Queensland centre Dane Gagai, who immediately crouched over Cobbo to protect him from the melee, said Luai would come to regret his actions.
“There is a line you don’t cross,” he told NewsCorp.
“If Luai had his time again, he might not have said what he said. That is what this game brings out in you.
“A couple of years back Jai Arrow was scrutinised for what he did to [James] Tedesco. I know speaking to Jai he wishes he had his time back. As soon as he did it he realised he f***** up. It is just passion and heat of the moment. I know Luai. He is a good man away from the field.”
Cobbo was immediately tended to by the trainers but he was able to get to his feet and was taken from the field in a medicab wearing a neck brace.
Gagai opened up on the concern he had for Cobbo when he saw the blow he sustained.
“As soon as he went into that tackle I knew straight away it was bad,” he said.
“He was locked up and there were bodies all around. It was just looking after your mate. He would probably do the same for me.”
Luai was questioned about the incident on Thursday morning and said he was unaware Cobbo had been knocked out.
“I didn’t know he was unconscious but that’s Origin,” he said.
Luai also revealed he sought out Cobbo in the sheds after the game to check on his welfare..
The rugby league world, meanwhile, wasn’t impressed by Luai and slammed the Blues five-eighth for flexing on Cobbo while he was clearly knocked out.
The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Crawley labelled Luai a grub.
“At some point someone has to say to Jarome Luai that enough is enough,” he wrote.
“Grow up. Don’t be a grub.
“It’s not acceptable to stand over an opposition player who is laying concussed on the ground and give him a gobful.
“Not even on the game’s toughest stage. It’s not tough.”
CODE Sports’ Lachlan McKirdy tweeted: “Jarome Luai standing over Cobbo is going to become a defining Origin image.”
The ABC’s Jacob Shields said: “Unfortunate start to Origin, but that was disgusting from Jerome Luai to stand over Cobbo flexing after he’s out cold on the ground clearly knocked out … could have been seriously injured and he’s flexing over him being all tough?? Very grubby, gross stuff.”