JOEL Tomkins has refused to lay any of the blame of Wigan’s Grand Final defeat on Ben Flower.
The forward believes the 12 remaining players put themselves in a good place to retain their title but made a number of wrong decisions to surrender their half-time lead.
Flower was dismissed with the game just two minutes old for a shocking double punch on Saints half-back Lance Hohaia.
Much has been made over the past 48 hours of the incident with many suggesting it cost Wigan the match.
But Tomkins has backed his under-fire team-mate and said the rest of the squad will be doing the same.
“Ben is going to be in a bad place but there is absolutely no blame from any of the lads or coaching staff going to be laid on his shoulders,” he told the Evening Post.
“He’s been outstanding all year. Things like this happen in sport. If we’d have got the win we wouldn’t have been too bothered about it but now we’ve lost he will be made a bit of a scapegoat by some but from the players and coaches it won’t be the case.
“I didn’t see the incident to be honest but when he got the red card our whole game plan changed. We had to swap everything around and tighten it up.
“It definitely affected us but we won’t make an excuse, we were still in a position where we could win the game. At half-time we were confident we could go and win it. We’ve only got ourselves to blame for not winning it. We were in a good position but a couple of decisions cost us.”
Wigan scrum-half Matty Smith echoed Tomkins’ thoughts but admitted Flower’s actions could not be condoned by anyone at Wigan.
“There’s no excuses - you can’t do that,” said the former Saints player.
“He’s punched him on the ground. Benny will learn from that I’m sure and we’ll all be behind him. He’s a great lad and will come back stronger.
“It’s not the image the game wants to portray but it was a Saints Wigan derby in front of 70,000 people and we were all fired up. He just lost his head.
“I thought the effort and desire we showed was unbelievable against a good Saints side. We lost a man against Leeds at the Etihad too but it was never going to be easy when we got one sent off. Saints were just too strong in the last 20 minutes.”
For most of the game it was difficult to spot that Wigan had a man less with them looking sharper, particularly in the first half.
But as the second half went on, St Helens took a firmer grip of the contest and the Warriors failed to register a single point.
Tomkins added: “We’re very disappointed but there are definitely some positives we can take from the desire we showed in our effort.
“With 12 men for practically 80 minutes was a tough ask but I thought there was a lot of effort there.
“When it came down to it we made a few decisions we shouldn’t have and they played pretty well so we’re gutted.” For Tomkins, who returned to Wigan this season after a spell in rugby union, it means he has now tasted one success and one defeat in a Grand Final.
The hurt of Saturday has made him hungrier for more success and, despite the result, he said that nights like that are why he returned to his hometown club.
“It was an unbelievable night,” he added.
“My memories of 2010, the atmosphere and everything was as good as that night. For 70,000 people trip to make the trip is amazing.
“It’s not the result we wanted but we’re not going to sit and sulk about it, Saints played well and got the win.
“We’ll take a lot of positives from this season and make it right next year.”