NRL head of football Graham Annesley has admitted that officials made a major blunder that cost the Cowboys dearly, during Friday night's preliminary final defeat to Parramatta.
Parramatta kept their quest to end a 36-year premiership drought alive by ending North Queensland's season in a controversial 24-20 win in Townsville.
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The Eels' win was shrouded in controversy after they opened the scoring from what many believed was a clear forward pass.
In fact, the only ones who didn't appear to realise the pass was forward were the referee, his linesman and the Bunker official.
Mitchell Moses cleaned up a wayward pass before spinning and throwing the ball to Isaiah Papali'i with his back to the defence, meaning the ball came forward out of his hands and travelled in the same direction.
Papali'i then broke the line before setting up Will Penisini to score the opening points in an incident described as a "robbery" against the Cowboys.
League great Wally Lewis was among many viewers to condemn the awarding of the try by officials, labelling the incident an "absolute disgrace".
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) September 23, 2022
“I thought the pass was thrown way forward. That’s gone a metre and a half forward," Lewis screamed in commentary for Triple M.
“That is a disgrace. An absolute disgrace. How could you miss it? He was standing virtually on a similar line.
“I mean sometimes a ball can float forward and you think, ‘Well maybe the referee’s made a judgement’. That was just like a bullet - it just went so forward.”
The controversial call was made all the more costly by the fact the Eels went on to win by just four points.
To his credit, Cowboys coach Todd Payten said that while he agreed with claims the ball went forward, it wasn't the reason why his side lost the contest.
NRL admits officials got the call wrong
Speaking about the controversy in his weekly address, Annesley admitted that the try should never have stood.
“After reviewing the Moses pass it does appear to be forward out of his hands, which is the only thing that matters under the laws of the game,” he told reporters.
“It is marginal, but forward nonetheless.
The NRL's admission on Monday will be little comfort to Cowboys fans who are no doubt still ropable about the incident.
While the NRL's Bunker does not currently have jurisdiction to rule on forward passes, Annesley said it's something the game could look to change in the future.
“We are still discussing (forward pass technology) with the companies.
“There is a number of companies who have possible solutions but we are not near taking anything (to the Commission).”
Rugby league great and commentator Scott Sattler said rather than exploring potentially expensive new technology, the NRL should just give the Bunker the power to rule on forward passes.
“If we’re going to use and spend millions of dollars on technology, use it for everything, or don’t use it at all or just use it for try scoring opportunities,” he said.
“We don’t need chips in balls and extra expenses, they’re going to spend another few hundred thousand or million dollars, we’ve got smart enough people in the game.
“If they feel as though they don’t have enough people in the game that are smart enough to do that, we are searching in the wrong places.”
Parramatta's contentious four-point win saw them book a spot in Sunday's decider against reigning NRL premiers, Penrith, who beat South Sydney 32-12 in the other preliminary final.
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