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The Roar


'We don’t give penalty tries for that': Warriors denied by bunker’s controversial call as Knights grind out ugly win

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5th May, 2024
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The Warriors sunk to their third straight loss on Sunday against the Knights after having two tries controversially disallowed in the wet at Newcastle.

Veteran winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was the unlucky player on both occasions with the first one denied by the bunker even though Newcastle were penalised and the second disallowed due to an obstruction call which looked more like a poor read by the defence. 

Despite the contentious calls, the visitors were well below their best and Newcastle showed tremendous grit to record the 14-8 triumph, their second straight upset since star fullback Kalyn Ponga was ruled out for three months with a foot injury.

With the Knights clinging to an 8-6 lead late in the first half, Watene-Zelezniak flew high to reel in a Shaun Johnson crossfield kick but then fumbles the ball as he tries to put it down after a mid-air tackle from Greg Marzhew 

“It’s just a penalty, we don’t give penalty tries for that,” referee Chris Butler explained to Johnson after he protested the bunker’s decision.

“I agree with you, but our interpretation which is comp-wide, is we don’t give penalty tries in those circumstances,” the ref could be heard responding. “I’m not disagreeing with you, but we have to be consistent through the year.”

Fox League analysts Michael Ennis “our game throws up some doozies sometimes, in terms of the rulings, this is certainly one of them”.


“In the in-goal, the bunker clearly says that Watene-Zelezniak takes a clean catch yet he’s tackled in the air by Greg Marzhew, unable to get the footy down and it’s not a penalty try. If he catches that cleanly and just falls to the ground, he scores every day of the week so I’m not sure how that’s not a penalty try in this day and age.”

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 05: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad of the Warriors is tackled during the round nine NRL match between Newcastle Knights and New Zealand Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium, on May 05, 2024, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is tackled. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Warriors coach Andrew Webster was bemused by the decision.

“The only reason he didn’t score is because he got tackled in the air,” Webster said. “I don’t understand if there’s a clause for that particular play if you’re attacking and tackled in the air, but it looked like he was deadset going to score for all money.

“I thought a penalty try is if someone is about to score, and they’re not allowed to through a penalty.”

The Warriors started the match in terrible fashion, conceding penalties and dropping the ball, particularly the back three, and it was an error by fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad which led to the first points.


Jackson Hastings arrowed a grubber towards the goalpost and CNK fumbled the pick-up with Tyson Gamble gleefully touching down before the Warrior could make amends. 

The Knights went 8-0 up in the 15th minute when the Warriors were penalised for being offside after the home side tried a grubber into the in-goal area on play one following yet another handling error at the back. 

Veteran utility Dylan Walker cut the gap to just two points after Tohu Harris created a gap close to the line but the Warriors thought they should have been up at the break via a penalty try before the bunker denied their claims. 

With rain tumbling down, neither side was able to click in attack so the Warriors took the opportunity to equalise in the 55th minute when Jed Cartwright was pinged for a late tackle on Harris.

Watene-Zelezniak was denied a second time when he slid over in the corner on the end of a right-side raid but Butler ruled obstruction on Jackson Ford even though Hastings looked to have made a poor defensive read.


Ford ran through as a decoy and Hastings wrapped his arms around the player rather than sliding across to shut down the backline movement.

Knights prop Daniel Saifiti charged onto a Hastings offering to power through three defenders for a 14-8 lead in the 64th minute and the Warriors panicked in the wet conditions during the closing stages to allow the home side to grind out just their fourth win from nine starts this season.

Marzhew was lucky not to end up in the sin bin for a shoulder charge on Rocco Berry as the Warriors launched the second-last of their late fruitless attacking raids.

The Warriors have just three wins and a draw from their nine appearances and after surging to the top four last season, they are under pressure to make the finals after droping to 14th following successive losses to the Dragons, Titans and Knights in their past three outings.

Sunday’s loss comes ahead of a crunch fortnight when the Warriors face the competition’s two form teams, the Sydney Roosters then Penrith, both in Australia.

Two more losses there would leave the Auckland-based side’s finals hopes in early danger of slipping away.


“We can’t look too far ahead, we’ve got to get confidence in what we’re doing fast,” coach Andrew Webster said.

“I don’t think there’s the same zip in our attack (as last year). I don’t think we’re as on-point with it or as clinical. We’re making it harder for ourselves.”

For Knights coach Adam O’Brien, the issue of Ponga’s absence was irrelevant.

“It’s important whether KP was there or not,” O’Brien said. “We’ve had most of our DNA all year … But I’m really proud of that performance, especially defensively. That’s what we want to be known for, that’s a Knights footy team.”