The rugby league community was left fuming after a pair of questionable Bunker decisions robbed the Newcastle Knights on Thursday.
The rugby league community was left fuming after a pair of questionable Bunker decisions thwarted the Newcastle Knights during Thursday evening’s clash with the Brisbane Broncos at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Broncos claimed a convincing 38-12 victory in Newcastle, but the final margin could have been substantially smaller if not for a couple of baffling calls from the match officials.
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In the 35th minute, scores were tied at 6-6 when Knights debutant Anthony Milford delivered a grubber that was gathered and grounded by centre Dane Gagai.
But video referee Grant Atkins overturned the on-field decision, adjudging that Gagai had lost grip of the ball before grounding it on the tryline.
There was undeniably separation between the Queenslander’s right hand and the ball, but many pundits believed he had regained control of the footy as he planted it.
“That’s ridiculous,” former Cronulla hooker Michael Ennis said on Fox League.
“(Gagai) can’t believe it, gee that’s a bad call. I don’t like that one at all.
“We just do everything we can to try and find ways to try and take tries off you these days. Gee it’s frustrating.”
Fox League commentator Warren Smith continued: “Literally the position of his thumb is why he’s been disallowed that try. That’s a crazy call.”
Melbourne Storm legend Cameron Smith told Channel 9: “I actually thought that he grounded the football.
“I’m suggesting that he does lose the football … but as he grounds the ball it’s in contact with his hand.
“I actually thought it was a try.”
Former Queensland representative Darryl Brohman tweeted: “Come on. That rule is crap. Change the rule. It’s an utter embarrassment for the NRL. That has been a try since 1908.”
But Newcastle’s frustration only grew after the halftime break, with Brisbane winger Selwyn Cobbo being awarded a try in the 69th minute despite what appeared to be a clear obstruction on halfback Adam Clune.
The Knights were only trailing by two points when Broncos forward Jordan Riki blocked Clune, allowing Brisbane fullback Te Maire Martin to run behind his teammate and pass the ball, setting up Cobbo’s long-range try.
However, Atkins upheld the try because he believed the New Zealander had passed the footy before running behind Riki.
“I don’t agree with that, I don’t agree with that at all,” Smith cried.
“If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck. And that’s an obstruction. As we know it, and we’ve come to know it in recent seasons, that’s an obstruction every day of the week.”
New South Wales Blues coach Brad Fittler said on Channel 9’s coverage: “That is a bad call. A bad call.”
Bulldogs footy boss Phil Gould continued: “That just flies in the face of everything they have done with the bunker the last ten years.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield tweeted: “This is a complete farce. That was a no-try. Gagai denied a fair try. Knights robbed. Get rid of the bunker.”
CODE Sports’ Brendan Bradford posted: “Rugby league rules are more confusing than rugby union rules at the minute.”
A fired-up Knights coach Adam O’Brien made his disgust abundantly clear from the coaching box, repeatedly gesturing towards the field as the Bunker’s decision was handed down.
But speaking to reporters in the post-match press conference, O’Brien refused to blame the Bunker for the 26-point loss.
“that scoreline at the end there it is inexcusable for us,” he said.
“I get it took a bit of wind out of the sails, but I think if it happens on the 10m line or on the tryline, the rule should be the same all the way down the field in my opinion … I don’t get it, I don’t understand it.”
The Broncos have now notched five consecutive wins, the first time they have achieved the feat since 2017.
“It was good, tough win,” Broncos skipper Kurt Capewell told Channel 9 after the triumph.
“It obviously wasn’t how we wanted to play in the first half but we addressed it at halftime. It was good to see the boys show a bit of resilience and fight back.”
Kevin Walters’ men, who temporarily climb up to fourth on the NRL ladder, will next face the Gold Coast Titans at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, May 27.