The NRL has admitted that Parramatta should have been awarded a critical penalty late in their semi-final loss to Penrith on Saturday night, but insists that was the only mistake made by their referees.
The NRL’s head of football, Annesley, gave a 40-minute briefing on Monday dedicated only to that game, defending referee Ashley Klein and clearing four other contentious rulings.
He also revealed that the integrity team was looking into whether Penrith was correct to call a timeout when Mitch Kenny was hurt late in the game, thereby slowing Parramatta’s momentum.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo will get a report on the event, with a decision due as soon as Tuesday.
The Eels will be most frustrated by Jarome Luai’s admission that he should have been penalized for pushing Mitch Moses back late in the 8-6 loss.
With 12 minutes remaining, Blake Ferguson broke free down the right wing and attempted to kick back inside before the game broke down.
“A penalty should have been imposed,” Annesley remarked.
“They scuffle, and Luai makes the final grab, knocking Moses off his feet.
“I don’t believe that merits anything more than a fine.”
But Annesley argued that the error was with the touch judge, not with under-fire referee Ashley Klein or the bunker.
“Back play has always been in the realm of the touch judge for as long as I’ve been involved in the game,” Annesley remarked.
“The referee has to keep an eye on the ball carrier, and Ferguson made a break and kicked the ball back in.”
Annesley also refused to say whether Will Penisini was taken out later in the same play, or if Penrith had knocked on at the play’s conclusion.
He did, however, defend a few other rulings, notably Will Kennedy’s high shot on Liam Martin just before halftime, which gave the Panthers a two-point advantage.
Ray Stone had knocked on out of dummy-half with 10 minutes to go and cleared a supposed strip in a Clint Gutherson tackle late, he added.
“Things aren’t always as clear cut as we would like,” Annesley explained.
“By the same token, we can’t just assume it was incorrect.”
Meanwhile, at the end of the season, Annesley said the NRL would reassess the protocols for trainers suspending play for injuries.
Annesley declined to comment on the Penrith incident, but said that a trainer can check badly wounded players from the sidelines before calling a halt to play.
“At the conclusion of the season, we’ll see if we need to do anything more,” Annesley added.
“It’s one of our game’s most difficult levels.
“Obviously, the safety and well-being of the players must be prioritized.
“However, we must ensure that our regulations cannot be used for tactical advantage.”