There were spotfires everywhere in a testy encounter between Penrith and Wests Tigers on Saturday night but both teams put their bad blood aside when it mattered.
Eight minutes into the second half of the Panthers’ 30-6 win, Penrith back-rower Isaah Yeo reeled out of a tackle when his head made nasty contact with the shoulder of Tigers forward Matt Eisenhuth.
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Yeo hit the ground immediately and referee Ben Cummins, noticing he was in a bad way, stopped play after the tackle was completed by a couple of his teammates.
Yeo tried to stand up but stumbled backwards, looking like he might hit the deck again. Fortunately, players from both sides rushed in to help the big man.
Eisenhuth and Tigers centre Moses Mbye were two of the quickest to react, running towards Yeo to grab him and hold him up. Tigers bench forward Elijah Taylor was another who helped out, as well as Penrith second-rower Liam Martin.
Even Cummins made a move to support the wounded Panther as the whistleblower looked ready to go above and beyond the call of duty.
CHECK OUT THE INCIDENT IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE
It was a seriously classy moment that summed up everything footy is about in 2020 because the weirdest year in NRL history is about more than just who wins the premiership.
The Warriors are the story of the season after leaving New Zealand to ensure the league could continue, and a gesture like what we saw on Saturday night is symbolic of how there’s much more at stake than simply competition points.
We’ve been told in all walks of life that getting through this global pandemic requires everyone to stick together and the Tigers helping out Yeo was the perfect illustration of that.
If the NRL really wants to promote the best of rugby league, it should include the moment in next year’s pre-season marketing campaign.
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Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is public enemy No. 1 in Tigerland for abandoning the club after urging everyone to join him on the “bus” and there were some spiteful flare-ups as the Panthers won their 11th consecutive game.
Mbye and Nathan Cleary became involved in a scuffle when the Penrith halfback accused the Tigers captain of trying to kick him in a tackle. Benji Marshall also had words with young Panthers playmaker Jarome Luai after he seemingly went down a little too easily following some accidental, light contact to the head in a tackle.
Tigers fullback Adam Doueihi was lucky not to give away a penalty when he retaliated by picking a blue with the Panthers markers after being tackled just off his own line.
But the compassion on show for Yeo proves footy players can be lovers as well as fighters when the situation calls for it.
Ivan Cleary said after the game Yeo had passed his Head Injury Assessment (HIA) test, but the Panthers will continue to monitor him in the lead-up to Thursday night’s game against the Broncos.