Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott last night accused Super League leaders Huddersfield Giants of “cowardice” and feigning injury as he launched a staunch defence of his volatile prop Ryan Bailey.
The ex-Great Britain star appears before the RFL disciplinary this evening charged with punching Huddersfield captain Kevin Brown during an explosive fracas in their 38-6 loss.
Bailey faces a two-match ban if found guilty which would rule him out of struggling Leeds’ Easter programme starting with Thursday’s derby trip to Bradford.
But McDermott believes the fiery front-row – who was red-carded along with Giants’ Luke O’Donnell – had been purposely targeted by the opposition and was only dismissed because of his previous perception by others.
He also insisted he would not try and alter the approach of Bailey, who has courted controversy throughout his 10 year top-flight career.
In a clear reference to rivals’ tactics – and subsequent in-action from the disciplinary chiefs – McDermott said: “Study Ryan Bailey’s game and tell me where he hits people off the ball or where he head-high tackles as I can’t find any.
“Does he wind people up? Yes. Is he an aggressive forward? Yes. Does he do cheap shots? No.
“Does he put people into dangerous positions where they are going to trap limbs or come in third man trying to spear peoples’ knees where they can’t protect themselves, things I’m watching? One hundred per cent not.
“At times he gets drawn into the opposition.
“If they chelp at him, scratch this, stamp that and there’s a bit of a fracas he’s the first bloke everyone runs up to.
“I think on Friday they had a script on Ryan Bailey and he fell into that trap.
“The referee sent him off because of his perception.
“He grits his teeth, growls and waves his fists, something they don’t want to see in our game.
“I thought what the opposition did to him after the fight was cowardice – although I’m not saying he was guilt-free – and does anyone mention one of their players was faking being unconscious in the build-up?
“That irks me to death; that’s soccer – it’s never been us.”
Stand-off Brown could be suspended for one-match for his part in the incident, but O’Donnell has avoided a ban after the match review panel accepted he never actually threw a single punch.