The Brisbane Broncos and their fans have been left with a bitter sense of injustice after blowing an 18-0 lead in a controversial loss to Manly on Thursday night.
The Broncos were much improved from the side that suffered a club record 59-0 defeat to the Roosters the week before, but it was the Sea Eagles that left Gosford with two competition points after the thrilling 20-18 victory.
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Brisbane came close to winning the game in the dying moments when winger Xavier Coates looked set to score, only to be stopped by a last-ditch defensive effort from Tom Trbojevic.
The Manly fullback came barrelling across in defence to force Coates into touch as the Brisbane youngster tried in vain to get a pass away.
The Sea Eagles then held on for the remaining minute of the game to see out a gutsy come-from-behind victory.
Questions have been raised about the legality of Trbojevic's match-winning tackle, however, with Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue labelling it a "shoulder charge" and "the reason" his side lost the game, in a since deleted social media post.
Plenty of fans were also angry that the call didn't go the Broncos' way, while others argued that some angles proved it was a legal tackle from the Manly fullback.
Don’t turn on us now, shoulder charge rule is rubbish but he has not used arms in that tackle.— David Jovanov (@davidjovanov) June 12, 2020
@NRL @NRLcom @NRLMedia @NRLBunker any charges to be laid for this clear shoulder charge?— Gunbuster (@GunbusterDDG41) June 12, 2020
Wheres Annesley minutes later condemning the call? Or 40/20 that wasnt called despite ball out? Or the penalty to manly when it should be been play the ball like the last thousand times?
Tommy Turbo's shoulder charge ignored by the refs...— Fletch 🏉⭕🌕 (@MWGeorgie) June 11, 2020
I wonder how Manly feel about being handed a win this week due to a ref's decision 🤔
Shoulder charge? Pretty sure the below suggests otherwise pic.twitter.com/EXukthRjlJ— Steven (@StratosH9) June 11, 2020
It even close to a shoulder charge. Look at the reverse angle. His arm is completely up and wrapping around Coates. Stop clutching at straws.— Darren Nosti (@nostrils7) June 11, 2020
Clearly wraps his arms around. Not a shoulder charge imo— Supercoach Addicts (@NRL_SC_Addicts) June 12, 2020
That was not a shoulder charge 😂😂😂— Jaidyn Ganino (@jaidynganino) June 12, 2020
Broncos criticise game-winning penalty
The divisive incident was by no means the only point of contention in the game, with Brisbane also filthy about a penalty against Carrigan that allowed Manly to kick what turned out to be the winning points.
After Brisbane dominated the opening half hour, Manly clawed their way level with 10 minutes to play before Patrick Carrigan was penalised for a late strip on Jake Trbojevic.
The rake was one-on-one, but came just after Ashley Klein had called held. The ruling was technically the correct one, but the Broncos were unlucky to be called up.
"It was a really tough call, it was a one-on-one strip," Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold said.
"If he called held what normally happens is the guy gets to play the ball again. To lose a game like that is really disappointing.
"I just didn't think it was a penalty."
The result continued the Broncos' horror run, after they looked set to rebound from their worst ever loss after scoring three-unanswered tries in the first half-hour.
Seibold has launched an impassioned defence of his team after the match, declaring constant criticism won't affect him or his players.
The Broncos sunk to their third straight loss, albeit in a much-improved display before they let the 18-0 lead slip.
It came after a horror fortnight for the club, who conceded 93 points in the two games, including in their 59-0 home hammering by the Roosters.
The performances had sparked questions over the club's culture, roster and Seibold's future in just his second season at the club.
But Seibold has vowed to try avoid listening to the criticism, which has come from the likes of Ben Ikin, Gorden Tallis and Glenn Lazarus in the past fortnight.
"People who make comment they're not inside our building," Seibold said.
"(Criticism) going to be there regardless.
"It doesn't impact how we train, how we play and we're not trying to silence any critics, we're trying to get better as a group.
"The people who criticise our club, myself, the players, they're not in with us anyway.
"They're not on board with us anyway, so if you spend your life trying to please other people you're going to be disappointed."
Brisbane showed good signs against the Sea Eagles but there will still have been issues that concerned them in the 20-18 loss.
Their edge defence again had its problems, as Manly ran in all three of their tries without a defender laying a hand on the points-scorer.