South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has taken aim at the NRL bunker's decision to award a controversial try to Dylan Edwards in Penrith's 26-22 win on Thursday night.
An understrength Penrith side secured their second minor premiership in three years in a thrilling defeat of a red-hot Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium.
But the win didn't come without controversy after Edwards was awarded a try that many thought should have been denied because of obstruction.
Lachlan Ilias was impeded by Izack Tago while trying to slide across in defence, with Tago running into the outside shoulder of Ilias.
What has seemingly been a black-and-white rule for three seasons was suddenly open to interpretation as bunker official Ashley Klein ruled that Ilias wouldn't have been able to tackle Edwards anyway because he broke the line too far away from where the obstruction occurred.
“I don’t know. I honestly give up trying to figure out what that rule is,” Demetriou said in his post-match press conference.
“He stops in the line and there is no effort or way Lachie can get off that.
“But we conceded 26 points and we shouldn’t be conceding 26 points in a game when they are missing their two most creative players, so a few blokes missed their assignments in defence tonight and that’s what cost us.”
Greg Alexander said in commentary for Fox League: "I haven’t heard video referees until last week when Bradman Best scored a try, where the video referee is making a judgment call on whether the player would have made the tackle or not.
“The outside shoulder has been very black and white.
“There was contact made with Lachlan Ilias and the video referee said, the fact that Dylan Edwards got to the outside of Campbell Graham that was why it was a try.
“There would be plenty of fans wondering why wasn’t that a penalty when Izack Tago contacted the outside shoulder of Lachlan Ilias.”
Fox League commentator Warren Smith wrote on Twitter: “Just fabulous to be three weeks out from the finals and have the bunker, on consecutive weekends, change their interpretation of what constitutes obstruction.
“For the last two or three seasons the Edwards try would have been looked at once and ruled no try, now the bunker is making it a subjective call on whether or not the defender would have played a role in stopping the try.
“So much drama coming to a final near you.”
For the last 2 or 3 seasons the Edwards try would have been looked at once and ruled No Try, now the bunker is making it a subjective call on whether or not the defender would have played a role in stopping the try.
So much drama coming to a final near you.#NRLSouthsPanthers
— Warren Smith (@WarrenSmithFOX) August 18, 2022
Fans were also left fuming, expressing their disbelief on social media.
That’s the maddening part about tonight’s decision- it was ‘right’ but how do you change the rules in round 23?
— Greg Sleigh (@GregSleigh) August 18, 2022
And now they make judgment calls rather than rule to the letter of the laws, which they have been doing all year. Inside shoulder black and white decision.
— @TheScorpion (@BazTuross) August 18, 2022
To say no obs bc Edwards ran thru a dif gap than one left by Ilias is ridiculous. No gap for Edwards if Graham doesnt cover for Ilias.
— Neilhoh (@Neilhoh) August 18, 2022
Only just seen the replay but surprised Dylan Edwards try allowed #NRLSouthsPanthers
— Paul Kneeshaw (@Stick_Beetle) August 18, 2022
So the Nrl has decided that the bunker can now use discretion to decide on obstruction calls. Geez you’d hope no one misses the 8 because a similar call was no try earlier in the season. #NRLSouthsPanthers
— Brisbane_Broncos_88 (@qlder82) August 18, 2022
Does anyone know what an obstruction is anymore? #NRLSouthsPanthers
— Brett Wood ⚫️🟡🔴 (@brettmaverick63) August 18, 2022
Why has the NRL suddenly changed its obstruction interpretation? #NRLSouthsPanthers
— Chris Cox (@CoxyJindas) August 18, 2022
Panthers secure minor premiership in thriller
An ankle injury put his season in doubt a week ago and his night was stymied by two bombed tries, but Panthers back-rower Liam Martin stood up when it counted, capping his miraculous recovery with the defending premiers' match-winning try in the last two minutes.
"It's been a tremendous three-year period for the club," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said, reflecting on securing another minor premiership with two games to spare.
"Having said that, when we start the finals in two weeks' time (the minor premiership) is not going to mean that much."
Martin bombed two tries in the in-goal, but Souths winger Jaxson Paulo coughed the ball up twice on the burst and knocked on in-goal himself.
When Paulo knocked on yet again in the danger zone, the Panthers were in position to secure a heart-stopping win.
"There have probably been three or four games this year where in the dying stages, we've come up with individual errors and on the back of those conceded points," lamented Demetriou.
"It's something we need to fix going into the big games."
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