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NRL star throws punch, cops a black eye

Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks was sent to the bin after a “ridiculous” brain snap that saw him throw a right hand punch at Dane Gagai in the Tigers’ season-ending loss to the Rabbitohs at Bankwest Stadium on Thursday night.NRL legend Brad Fittler was left stunned as he watched Brooks charge up to Gagai during…

Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks was sent to the bin after a “ridiculous” brain snap that saw him throw a right hand punch at Dane Gagai in the Tigers’ season-ending loss to the Rabbitohs at Bankwest Stadium on Thursday night.

NRL legend Brad Fittler was left stunned as he watched Brooks charge up to Gagai during a moment where play was stopped before he let fly with an overhand right that collected Gagai across his cheek just a fraction of a second before teammates from both clubs ran in to separate the pair.

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The moment came with the Tigers already reduced to 12 men on the field trailing the Bunnies early in the second half.

Brooks ended up leading the Tigers in a thrilling late comeback, but they fell short 26-24 at the death.

The result sees the Rabbitohs climb up to fifth on the table, while the Tigers’ finals chances are now dead in the water with two rounds still to play.

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Replays showed Gagai rag-dolled Brooks to the turf in a punishing sling tackle before shoving Brooks in the face when the Tigers star let him known he wasn’t happy.

As he walked away, Gagai also tossed the Steeden with venom towards Brooks — and collected him in the face with a direct hit.

It seemed to enrage Brooks, who ran in and immediately punched Gagai in the face.

“There’s a fight. Brooks just threw a right hook. He’s deadset just thrown a right hook,” Fittler said in commentary for Channel 9.

“What was he thinking? That was just a brain snap.

“That’s just ridiculous by Luke Brooks.”

Gagai was also sent to the bin, turning the game on its head as an 11-12 contest with both teams having players sent from the field.

Fittler said Gagai did not deserve to go to the bin.

“No. Throwing the ball at someone’s head isn’t inciting a brawl,” he said.

While the Tigers were down to 11 men, the Bunnies extended their lead to 26-12 with just 20 minutes to play.

But Brooks led a Tigers fightback when he was allowed to return to the field, scoring a try just seconds after being allowed back.

The Tigers cut Souths’ lead to 26-24 three minutes later when Asu Kepaoa crossed out wide.

It set up a grand stand finish.

Benji Marshall had produced another miracle moment to allow Brooks to score his try minutes earlier, but with the game on the line and the Tigers needing a season-saving match-winner, Marshall kicked a grubber beyond the dead ball line on the 5th tackle, taking the wind out of the Tigers’ sails with just three minutes to play.

Earlier, the Tigers recovered to keep the game alive with two late tries that cut the Bunnies’ half time lead to 20-12.

The Tigers had been rocked on game day by the late withdrawals of stars Joey Leilua and Moses Mbye with coach Michael Maguire confirming niggling injuries and a short turnaround forced him to leave them on the sidelines.

The backline shuffle didn’t excuse the Tigers falling behind 20-0 after 25 minutes.

If the start angered Maguire, he would have been filthy early in the second half when Alex Twal was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul. Twal sat on a Rabbits player for too long after a tackle one play after Gagai ran 60m from an intercept, leaving the Tigers’ defensive line in disarray.

However, Twal’s professional foul was quickly forgotten moments later when Brooks took a swing at Gagai.

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