Sport Rugby League Referees in the spotlight again after NRL thriller

Referees in the spotlight again after NRL thriller

John Sutton of the Rabbitohs Is tackled by the Sea Eagles' defence. Photo: Getty
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South Sydney’s Wayne Bennett and Manly’s Des Hasler have taken pot shots at the referees following the Rabbitohs’ thrilling 21-20 NRL win on Saturday, continuing the game’s whistle-blowing woes.

Both coaches were aggrieved following the ANZ Stadium thriller, declaring they were the victims of dubious calls.

The most contentious moment of the game came when Cade Cust crossed midway through the first half to give Manly a 6-2 lead.

However the 13,434-strong partisan South Sydney crowd expressed their disapproval following what appeared to be a Moses Suli knock on in the lead-up.

Suli appeared to fumble the ball as he fielded a Daly Cherry-Evans pass before Manly’s five-eighth scored.

Surprisingly, head referee Grant Atkins refused to go to the bunker and signalled the try.

“I didn’t think it was a try,” Bennett said.

“But what fascinates me is when you have that disputed ball on the ground, why wouldn’t you just go and have a look?

“I’m not a fan (of the bunker). I want them to make their own decisions, but at the same time that’s a moment where there’s so much doubt there, it went so quickly. Just go and have a look at it. How’s that going to impact?”

Suli was again the subject of a disputed call in the second half when he picked up a wild Damien Cook pass and ran 80-metres to score.

The Manly centre bobbled the ball when he scooped it up, but the bunker cleared him of a knock on.

Suli appeared to give himself up when he temporarily stopped and looked at the officials, but Bennett said he had no problem with the decision.

Meanwhile, Hasler took issue with an 8-2 penalty count – including 6-1 in the first-half – as his side trailed 18-6 at the break.

He argued his side was continually pinged for lying in the ruck but was not doing anything different compared to Souths.

“I can’t figure it out,” he said. “I just figured we tried to stay in the ruck like they did.

“They did it really well, slowing the ruck. We tried to slow the ruck and we get penalised.

“You’d have to ask (NRL head of football) Graham Annesley. I know he said the other day he hasn’t been too impressed with them (the referees).”

Meanwhile, the finals hopes of Brisbane and the Warriors remain up in the air after playing out a rare NRL draw, locked up at 18-18 after a 90-minute golden-point thriller.

The Broncos reeled in a 16-6 halftime deficit on Saturday night but couldn’t avoid the first draw since round 21 in 2016 when Cronulla also remained level with Gold Coast on the same scoreline.

Both Brisbane and the Warriors arrived at Suncorp Stadium hoping to keep in touch with the top eight with identical 6-9 records.

However, they are still sweating on their finals hopes after neither side could nail a golden point-winning field goal, with a total of six attempts sailing past the uprights in a frenzied 10 minute extra-time period.

Both teams sit a frustrating three points outside the eight.

Coach Steve Kearney was still hopeful the Warriors were finals-bound after the draw ensured they were undefeated in five of their past eight games.

“As long as there is a possibility (of a finals finish), we will be fighting every inch of the way,” he said.

Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold was also hopeful of a finals spot, but only after regaining his composure following the thrilling finish.

“You certainly age on a night like tonight. It was a fair game of footy but it didn’t do my blood pressure any good,” he said.

“It was tough to watch but, if we keep putting in an effort like that every week, then we are heading in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, Melbourne delivered a fitting celebration for skipper Cameron Smith’s 400-game milestone with a thumping 40-16 NRL win over Cronulla at AAMI Park.

The competition leaders survived a second-half stumble on Saturday night when the Sharks fought back to within two points before the Storm piled on a further four tries to secure victory.