The Cowboys were defeated by the Storm 18-12 in Townsville on a record-breaking night for Cameron Smith.
Unfortunately, that will be overshadowed by a couple of controversial moments.
The first was the referees’ failure to hold up play as a result of a very serious injury to Nene Macdonald, when play continued and led to a Storm penalty that stretched the lead to a converted try.
The second was the final 30 seconds of play, when Felise Kaufusi got penalised for holding down a tackled player too long after held was call. A simple adjudication and the correct one, but it had the opposite effect of actually hindering the attacking team.
In the play itself, with approximately 30 seconds on the clock, the refs call held. Kaufusi deliberately lays over the tackled player Jordan McLean until a penalty is called with 24 seconds left.
The commentary team was flabbergasted he was not sin-binned for a professional foul.
A penalty to a team that is six points down is of little consequence.
It took precious seconds off the clock – including the time it took the referee to blow the pee out of the whistle to give the penalty, make the movement to indicate why he blew the penalty in the most theatrical manner possible, and it took time for the Cowboys to take the ‘quick’ tap. Now only 20 seconds left.
Catching my drift? Ten of the 30 seconds gone without a ball being passed.
You can guarantee Kaufusi knew what he was doing and kudos to his game awareness.
It’s a penalty that would not be given away if you were only two points up or even.
The Cowboys failed to cross the line and the final siren blew in the middle of the play the ball. Game over.
So here is the conundrum. With seconds remaining, the defensive team knew that giving away a penalty was actually more beneficial to them than the attacking side.
Even if the ref rightly sent Kaufusi to the sin bin for a professional foul and had the presence of mind to stop the clock after he blew the penalty, that would still cost precious seconds.
Then restart the clock as the tap is taken. A new set of six – of which you would only have time for two or three tackles – is hardly reward for being on the receiving end of a deliberate infringement.
What do you do to ensure that in a similar scenario, the attacking team get full compensation for being infringed?
My solution is simple. The 80-minute full-time siren should no longer be the end of the game, it only signifies that the game ends at the end of that ‘phase’ of play.
‘Phase’ means the end of that set of six tackles, or if a new penalty is given, the end of that set.
Using tonight as an example, this is what I believe should have happened.
Kaufusi gives away the penalty at the 24-second mark. The referee blows time off and sin-bins Kaufusi for a professional foul.
The Cowboys receive a fresh set of six tackles, when time-on is blown as the player taps the ball play continues.
They continue to attack the Melbourne line, and any penalty given away by the Storm would mean a new set of six.
If the Cowboys have three tackles left when the full-time siren sounds, the clock keeps running.
Play continues until the ball is turned over or goes out of play, the Cowboys are tackled on the sixth, or the Cowboys score. The referee blows the full-time whistle when one of those things happens.
Giving the referees the power to end the game after current set concludes after the hooter would lead to a much fairer game from start to finish. I’d be happy for this to apply at half-time, too.
Consequences of giving away penalties remain consistent throughout the game, whether in the 29th minute or the 79th. The clock cannot be used by the team in front of the scoreboard to run the clock down in an illegal manner.
It may actually lead to more exciting finishes, and fans would appreciate a more standard conclusion to games, instead of finishing in the middle of the play the ball.