'What a joke': NRL fans baffled by 'confusing' ref decision

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·Sports Reporter
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Melbourne's Cameron Munster wasn't penalised for a first-half hit on Jarome Luai which required the Penrish star to take a HIA before returning to the field. Pictures: Getty Images
Melbourne's Cameron Munster wasn't penalised for a first-half hit on Jarome Luai which required the Penrish star to take a HIA before returning to the field. Pictures: Getty Images

NRL fans have erupted on social media after a crucial and controversial moment in Penrith's preliminary final clash against Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.

The Storm and Panthers were locked in a genuinely brutal arm wrestle in the first half, with the Storm losing Christian Welch and Brandon Smith to concussion.

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Penrith had troubles of their own, with Nathan Cleary placed on report for a dangerous tackle.

Though they eventually entered half-time holding on to a 6-0 lead, they definitely had problems to address heading into the sheds.

Chief among those was the status of Jarome Luai, who was sent for a HIA after being collected by Cameron Munster as he fell backwards in a tackle.

Luai was on a breakway when he spun around a Storm rival, only to fall as he attempted to get past Munster as well.

He was clearly worse for wear after copping the inadvertent hit from Munster, but fans were furious after referee Gerard Sutton gave the Storm the ball, after it spilled out in the tackle.

There was widespread confusion as to how Munster was not penalised for the tackle which, despite being clearly unintentional, was nevertheless a high shot and required Luai to spend the rest of the first half on the sidelines.

Fans on Twitter were unimpressed with the referee's decision making.

The outrage wasn't over though, with some other fans equally annoyed at Luai's re-emergence in the second half.

Many felt Luai had clearly suffered a concussion in the contact with Munster.

After the Storm lost two players to failed HIAs before half time, Luai's presence on the field rubbed some fans the wrong way.

After a bruising first half, Penrith stuck first with a try to Brian To'o, however Cleary missed the conversion.

The winner of this preliminary final will face South Sydney in the NRL grand final, after they defeated Manly in Friday night's preliminary final.

Christian Welch incident leaves NRL fans fuming

it was the incident involving Welch that left commentators and fans particularly aggrieved, with the Melbourne prop allowed to stay on the field after the game had been stopped.

Penrith were on the attack and had broken up field when referee Gerard Sutton stopped play so Welch could be attended to.

The big Storm forward was looking groggy after a tackle involving Dylan Edwards, but was allowed to continue playing after a brief check-up from a Melbourne trainer.

“You can’t stop the play and the player is allowed to remain on the field. If play is stopped it has to be so significant the player has to leave the field," Fox Sports commentator Michael Ennis said.

“You can hear Sutton say he has to go to the trainer.”

The Storm lost Brandon Smith and Christian Welch in the first half of their preliminary final against Penrith, after both failed HIA tests. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
The Storm lost Brandon Smith and Christian Welch in the first half of their preliminary final against Penrith, after both failed HIA tests. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

League great Gordon Tallis added: “He has to leave the field.

“That’s what the rules should be if you stop the game at the moment, Welch has to leave the field.”

Penrith scored a short time after the incident with Stephen Crichton crossing in the corner for the only try of the first half.

A short time later Welch did leave the field for an HIA test, with news eventually filtering through that he'd failed it and would take no further part in the match.

Fans were left outraged on social media, with many questioning how Welch was allowed to stay on the field for as long as he was, before finally being sent for a check.

A similar controversy erupted in Friday night's first preliminary final between the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles.

There was uproar after Manly's Sean Keppie suffered an apparent concussion and the game was allowed to continue while he stumbled across the field.

Referee Ashley Klein failed to stop play despite Keppie wobbling around on the field and crashing to the turf near the play-the-ball early in Manly's loss to Souths.

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