Manly squeak home thanks to video box horror show
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Brett Stewart scores for Manly during the NRL final rounds (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Grant Trouville)
Defending NRL premiers the Manly Sea Eagles are still alive in the premiership race thanks to a gritty second half against North Queensland – and a string of diabolical refereeing decisions in their favour.
Manly downed the Cowboys 22-12 at Allianz Stadium and will meet Melbourne Storm in a grand final qualifier in Melbourne next weekend.
It was a gripping game for the most part but all of the post game talk centred on referee Shayne Hayne and the men in the video box, Steve Clark and Paul Simpkins.
With the score locked at 12-apiece, Manly was awarded two second half tries in highly dubious circumstances.
The first came in the 51st minute when Manly winger Jorge Taufua was grassed before the tryline, then lost control of the ball before attempting to ground it over his head.
Referee Hayne referred the decision to the video refs who gave the green light through Benefit of the Doubt.
Twelves minutes later, Manly’s other winger Michael Oldfield touched down after a bomb kick by Daley Cherry Evans was blatantly tapped forward by Eagles five-eighth Kieran Foran.
The Cowboys camp erupted with captain Johnathan Thurston having heated words with referee Hayne as a scrum was being set.
“That’s twice you’ve been wrong!” yelled an irate Thurston but Hayne insisted both try decisions were out of his control and waved him away.
North Queensland hopes were pretty much gone after the second decision went against them but it should be pointed out that one of their own tries came straight after a glaring ball strip on Manly’s Taufua by opposing winger Ashley Graham.
The Cowboys scored in the set following the resulting scrum win.
The ball strip was not picked up by the two referees on the field, the two touch judges nor the two men in the video room.
Three crucial decisions needed to be made in the game, and the officials got them all wrong.
It is simply not good enough and there is every chance that other finals games will be determined by referee errors and blunders in the vital weeks ahead.
Heaven help us all if the grand final is determined by a video blunder. If you are a betting fan, that scenario is getting close to odds-on.
Is there a quickfire solution to the problem? Probably not, but that doesn’t help the teams on the wrong end of the green or red lights. These are all sudden death games and an entire season’s work can be snuffed out in a twinkling by sheer incompetence.
Manly, it must be said, was the better team on the night, having charged to a 12-0 lead after 20 minutes before the Cowboys took stock and found some momentum of their own.
The lead was trimmed to 12-6 just before half-time with the Cowboys levelling at 12-all in the 46th minute.
From that point, Manly’s fate was delivered from the button pushers. The Cowboys were powerless to come up with any sort of answer and their season is over.
Speaking of the players, there were many top performers on the night.
Manly was well served by Taufua, Tony Williams, Brett Stewart and Jamie Lyons while the Cowboys had standouts in prop James Tamou and second rower Glenn Hall.
And as for the referees? All I can say is that it comes as no surprise they are sponsored by OPSM.