TOWERING Knights forward Pasami Saulo will cop a two-match suspension on the chin after contacting Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes on Sunday night to apologise for the tackle that landed him in hot water.
Saulo was charged by the NRL match-review panel on Monday for a 51st-minute incident in Sunday's game at Sunshine Coast Stadium, in which his crashed into Hughes's lone, grounded leg fractionally after the Storm playmaker launched a clearing kick.
Saulo was sin-binned and placed on report, while Hughes limped off soon afterwards for treatment, although he subsequently returned to the field.
Saulo was hit with a grade-three dangerous-contact charge, to which he will plead guilty and accept two games in the sidelines.
The 22-year-old prop obtained Hughes's phone number from Knights coach Adam O'Brien on Sunday and rang him to say sorry.
"I spoke to Jahrome today and he confirmed Pasami had called him," O'Brien told the Newcastle Herald.
"That's just the kid he is. He's one of the nicest kids you'll ever meet, and even though there was no malice in that incident, he was remorseful and wanted to apologise directly to Jahrome.
"There was no intent.
"He just got it wrong and will have to cop his whack now."
O'Brien attributed the collision to fatigue and Saulo's enthusiasm to make an impact during his stint on the field.
"He was doing the right thing and trying to put some pressure on the kicker, but he just got it completely wrong in the end," he said.
"I think he actually surprised himself that he got there so quickly, because of his leg speed, and before he knew it he was on top of him and it was too late to pull out."
Saulo has now played in 11 NRL games, all off the bench, and O'Brien said he was "trying his backside off" to lift the Knights when he entered proceedings.
"That's one of the qualities I really like about him," O'Brien said.
"He's doing everything he can to give the team a lift."
Saulo's absence from Newcastle's next two games, against Wests Tigers on Saturday and then Manly on August 16, puts further strain on O'Brien's engine-room rotation.
State of Origin props Daniel Saifiti (knee) and Tim Glasby (concussion) are already unavailable, as well as hookers Jayden Brailey (knee), Andrew McCullough (hamstring) and Connor Watson (Achilles), winger Edrick Lee (arm), and back-rowers Sione Mata'utia (ankle) and Brodie Jones (ribs).
There could be further additions to the casualty list this week.
Centre Bradman Best was limping with an ankle problem on Sunday and O'Brien said he was unlikely to be fit to tackle the Tigers.
The coach was concerned that scans might reveal a syndesmosis, or high ankle sprain, which could potentially necessitate surgery.
Rookie hooker Chris Randall and back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon will also need to pass concussion protocols after a sickening head clash late in the first half against Melbourne.
"Hopefully they're not symptomatic and they get through OK, but we'll know more tomorrow," O'Brien said.
Both were taken from the field on Sunday and failed head-injury assessments.
Randall was also charged on Monday with grade-one dangerous contact after a 30th-minute incident involving Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster, but he can escape suspension with an early guilty plea.
The mounting injury toll, combined with back-to-back defeats, would suggest the Knights have reached a make-of-break phase of their season.
After the Tigers and Manly, they play North Queensland and the Warriors - all of whom are below seventh-placed Newcastle on the points table.
Three of those games are at McDonald Jones Stadium and one is in Gosford.
The next month shapes as a chance for the Knights to get back on track and set themselves up for a charge into the finals.
"As I said to the boys, we're still in the eight and our destiny is in our own hands," O'Brien said. "How we perform over the next month will be important.
"We've got a favourable draw in terms of travel. I'm not going to say favourable in terms of opposition, because for us it doesn't matter whether they're above us or below us.
"We've just got to get us right.
"But the other thing in our favour is a lot of the teams above us in the top eight are going to start playing each other fairly regularly, so they'll be picking each other off in terms of points.
"So it's up to us to continue the effort we showed yesterday, and add a bit better execution."
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