Johnathan Thurston was among the many who watched on in disbelief on Friday night when the referee missed a blatant knock-on from Viliame Kikau in the lead-up to a Panthers try against the Eels.
The Eels came back from 14-10 down with 15 minutes to play to stun the Panthers 22-20 and end Penrith's 21-match winning streak at home.
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The match was locked at 10-10 at half-time after Kikau set up a try for Taylan May with a brilliant short kick close to the line.
However the Panthers should never have had the ball after referee Gerard Sutton inexplicably missed a knock-on from Kikau in the lead-up.
The referee either thought the ball had been stripped from Kikau's grasp by the Eels or that the ball had travelled backwards, but replays showed it was a blatant knock-on.
Parramatta players Clint Gutherson and Mitchell Moses immediately remonstrated with Sutton after the Panthers try.
“I’m trying to come up with a defence for the Kikau dropped ball,” Andrew Voss said in commentary for Fox League.
“Was there any signal to say that they saw it as a ball ripped out, even though it wasn’t? It’s hard to believe that it could not be seen.”
Michael Ennis added: “That’s a blatant knock-on that’s been missed by Gerard Sutton.
“You can see Gutherson and Moses go straight to Gerard Sutton as May got the footy down, saying, ‘Are you serious? Are you serious?’”
Speaking on Channel Nine at half-time, Thurston was gobsmacked.
“You can’t let them go, my goodness,” he said.
“There’s two touch judges, a referee and a Bunker.
“You can’t be missing that in big games, it cannot happen.
“This is the NRL, we’re better than that.”
In such a big game, that is such a big error missing that Kikau knock-on. Completely changes the game. #NRLPanthersEels
— Adrian Arciuli (@Adrian_Arciuli) May 6, 2022
— Nathan Appo (@Elusive_Sausage) May 6, 2022
How TF did the touch judge and Sutton miss that blatant knock on from Kikau. Seriously that’s just beyond farcical. #NRLPanthersEels
— The Bundy Bear 🍞 🥩 🥃🇦🇺 (@RealBundyBear) May 6, 2022
That simply has to be the worst referee call I've ever seen. That's disgusting!! #NRLPanthersEels
— Craig M (@diminutiverowdy) May 6, 2022
Absolute joke. Refs are an absolute disgrace. The NRL is so far from consistent and professional it’s a joke. How are u going to explain that Clanger? What’s going to change ? #NRLPanthersEels
— JS_308CC 💉💉 (@308ccJs) May 6, 2022
Will need an explanation in the morning Sutton unable to blow the whistle after putting it in his mouth on blatant knock on from Kikau leading up to try
— Adam bates (@Batsey06) May 6, 2022
How does Gerard Sutton miss that Kikau knock on? Just so poor #NRLPanthersEels
— Thomas Costigan (@ThomasCostigan_) May 6, 2022
Parramatta snap Penrith's home winning streak
Speaking after the match, Brad Arthur declared Parramatta's win as his proudest as Eels coach.
Penrith's 21-match winning streak at home was the longest of any side in the NRL-era and one that stretched back to July 2019.
"I said to the players after the game, in nine years now I think it's the proudest I have been in my time at the club," Arthur said.
"On the back of four six-day turnarounds. These guys (Penrith) are a very good football team that haven't been beaten out here for a while.
"We've only got 19 guys from our full-time squad available, five guys couldn't train during the week because they're crook. It was a great effort."
A week after being flogged by North Queensland in Darwin, Gutherson was brilliant for Parramatta while Junior Paulo and Isaiah Papali'i were big in the middle.
Leading 14-10 with with 18 minutes left and after dominating the second-half tug-of-war, the Panthers made an uncharacteristic mistake with James Fisher-Harris putting the ball down on halfway after a set restart.
It took the visitors just four minutes to capitalise, with Gutherson putting Ryan Matterson through a hole to give the Eels an unlikely lead.
And when Dylan Edwards let a Mitch Moses bomb bounce on the next set and Dylan Brown chased through to score, Parramatta led 22-14.
Penrith hit back through Spencer Leniu with two minutes to play, but Nathan Cleary missed a two-point field-goal attempt in the dying seconds to seal Penrith's fate.
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