The Sydney Roosters have become the first team to record back-to-back premierships in 26 years, however their 14-8 NRL grand final win over Canberra will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
The Roosters ensured they sent retiring champion halfback Cooper Cronk out a winner, as they successfully defended their title on Sunday night at ANZ Stadium, but Ben Cummins' gaffe which led to James Tedesco's winning try is set to be debated fiercely.
‘SHOULD BE ASHAMED’: Outrage over 'disgusting' moment after NRL grand final
After a season in which the referees have frequently had the spotlight on them, they will again dominate headlines following an incident which is set to create headaches for Rugby League Central.
With the scores tied at 8-8, the Raiders had the Roosters on the rack and looked to have earned a repeat set when Tedesco failed to reel in a Jack Wighton bomb.
Cummins waved his arms in the air to signal six again but, when Wighton was tackled with the ball, they ruled a turnover.
Heartbreakingly for Ricky Stuart's side, the Roosters scored off the next set with Luke Keary exploding down the blind side and Latrell Mitchell producing a beautiful flick pass to unlock Daniel Tupou for Tedesco to score between the posts.
While he has been outspoken in his criticism of referees throughout his career, Stuart bit his tongue, saying he didn't want to take the gloss off the Roosters' historic win.
"Instead of me saying what I think and then getting abused by everybody in regards to my unsportsmanship manner, you write what you think," Stuart said.
"The first thing I did when I went onto the field was congratulate the four officials. No one goes out there to make a mistake."
Roosters coach Trent Robinson added: "You can talk about lots of decisions throughout the game.
"But we nailed the execution on the opportunity we have."
We all saw it. Congrats to the Roosters, but this was a tough couple minutes for the Raiders. Unfortunate it happened with 10 mins left in the GF. Raiders will be after redemption in 2020 #NRLGrandFinal #NRLGF https://t.co/KiPUK4eNLJ— Chris Pycroft (@chrispytweets) October 6, 2019
However fans, former players and commentators weren’t so forgiving.
Johnathan Thurston was gobsmacked in commentary for Channel Nine.
“Dumbfounded, I am dumbfounded by that,” he said.
“You can hear the referee calling six again and then changing the call on the run. It’s not a good look, it’s not a good look at all.
“I’d be pretty shattered if I was the Raiders because the next set, Tedesco scores and wins them the match.
“As a team, you want to take the referees out of the equation and win the game by being a consistent footy team, but huge huge call.”
There was absolute disbelief on social media at what some labelled one of the worst refereeing blunders in grand final history.
That “6-again, wait no, changed my mind” has to be the worst refereeing call in grand final history, and I lived through the 1999 last-minute penalty try decision as a 9-year-old Dragons fan— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) October 6, 2019
Signalling six again & then changing their mind is the biggest referring blunder in grand final history...— Martin Lang (@Martin_Lang11) October 6, 2019
Outrageous refereeing, signalling six again then saying it’s sixth tackle. Roosters score down the other end, probably the last score of the GF. Absolute travesty for Canberra #NRLGF— Jamie Pandaram (@JamiePandaram) October 6, 2019
What was that?? “6 to go 6 to go” .. oh no i changed my mind 🤷🏼♂️🤦🏼♂️ I play Union and even I know that isn’t right ..— Matt Giteau 🇦🇺 (@giteau_rugby) October 6, 2019
Next minute try to Roosters 🙄#NRLGF 💚💚
Not into ref bashing. But that is one of the worst calls in history. You can't change your mind. It's criminal for the Raiders #nrlgf— Michael Carayannis (@MCarayannis) October 6, 2019
It wasn’t six again as came off Raiders but refs indicated six again and Raiders played accordingly. Game ruined— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) October 6, 2019
Roosters make history
Cronk finished his career with victory in his ninth grand final - equalling Ron Coote and Eddie Lumsden for third-most appearances in a decider.
He also became the first player since a host of Parramatta greats, including Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny in 1981-83, to win three-straight titles.
While the referees will be accused of giving the rub of the green to the Roosters, the Raiders were on the end of a favourable call when Cronk was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Cronk hit Raiders prop Josh Papalii, who looked almost certain to score, marginally early while defending his line. This gave the Green Machine a one-man advantage for 10 minutes.
The only dent the Raiders made on the scoreboard with Cronk off the field was a Jarrod Croker penalty goal - which evened up the scores.
The Roosters were resilient in the closing stages when they were forced to defend their line, while the Raiders will be able to hold their heads high after having the ascension for most of what was their first grand final appearance since 1994.
The referees were influential for the entire 80 minutes after the Roosters took first points in controversial circumstances after Sam Verrills dived over.
The Roosters were gifted prime field position after an Elliott Whitehead charge-down cannoned into Roosters trainer Travis Touma and they were given a scrum feed.
Under NRL rules, if play is "irregularly affected", the referee awards a scrum feed to the attacking side and Verrills soon dived over.
While the rule was widely criticised, the Raiders remained in touch at 8-6 after Clive Churchill Medal winner Wighton stepped off his left foot to bamboozle Cordner.
But the Roosters showed their trademark grit and flair to hold on as they recorded their third premiership under coach Trent Robinson.