The NRL has admitted Canterbury were hard done by in yesterday’s 18-16 loss to Parramatta, confirming a disallowed try to the Bulldogs should have been awarded.
However, the governing body’s head of football, Graham Annesley, backed referee Chris Sutton over another controversial moment that occurred on the final play of the match.
With the Eels leading by two points as the siren sounded, the Bulldogs kicked downfield, with Eels winger Maika Sivo collecting the ball and throwing it into touch. Replays showed the ball travelled forward by some distance, with suggestions the Eels should have been penalised for a deliberate forward pass.
That would have allowed the Bulldogs to have a shot at goal to level the scores and send the match into extra time.
In explaining the decision at his weekly briefing, Annesley was at a loss to explain how the ball went so far forward.
“It’s not a pass, he throws it into touch. He’s got the ball in his right arm, I ask you to look at the motion of his right arm as he throws it,” he said.
“His hand comes right around in front of his chest. The ball, in some kind of way that I can’t explain, goes on a banana pass.
“It goes on some kind of arc when he throws it. I can’t explain the physics of that.”
Given the ball had been kicked downfield by the Bulldogs, the referee and touch judges were still some distance away from Sivo when he released the ball, making it hard to judge on-field.
“The referee is a good 12-13 (metres) in front of the play, they’re well in front of the play, I don’t have any criticism of the officials, they got there as quickly as they could after the kick,” Annesley said.
“It’s not a pass, it’s a throw or a toss, whatever you want to call it, whether it’s tossed or thrown forward is difficult to say.
“Clearly the path of the ball takes a very peculiar angle. I don’t have any great explanation of that. It would be a difficult call for the officials to make, and also a tough call based on the action of the player’s arm.”
Annesley pointed out that the ball is allowed to float forward, as long as it goes backwards out of the hands.
“We talk every week about forward passes that has nothing to do with the flight path of the ball, it’s all about how the ball leaves the hands,” he added.
“I’ll let people make up their own minds on that one, but I can’t have any criticism of the officials because of the circumstances, where they were, and whether there’s camera angles playing a few tricks.”
In such a tight match an early ruling that went against the Bulldogs could have proved costly, with Annesley disagreeing with the on-field decision to rule against a possible Bulldogs try earlier in the match.
With the Eels leading 6-0, Canterbury’s Marcelo Montoyo scored in the corner, only for Sutton to award a penalty to the Eels for obstruction, ruling that Bulldogs’ back-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner had taken out Mitchell Moses.
“The ball goes behind Faitala-Mariner, and Moses moves in and makes the tackle that he was always going to make,” Annesley said.
“We would call that a poor defensive read, but that is not an obstruction.”
Annesley said the ideal scenario would have been to let play continue and then refer it upstairs.
“We want referees to make decisions when they think they have all the information that they need,” he said.
“The try looked like it was going to be scored, I think the safety-first response in this case would have been to see what happens and then go to the bunker to determine whether there was any obstruction.
“I’m absolutely confident that if that had gone to the bunker it would have been ruled as a poor defensive read, and a try, assuming that everything else associated with it is correct.”