Ricky Stuart and Brad Arthur fume after controversial NRL showdown
The fiery NRL clash was overshadowed by a number of contentious moments.
Referee Grant Atkins and the NRL Bunker have come under fire from both Canberra coach Ricky Stuart and his Parramatta counterpart Brad Arthur after a drama-filled match on Saturday night. In freezing conditions in the nation's capital, the Raiders made it five straight victories with a 26-18 win that lifts them into the top-eight for the first time this season.
Matching the chilly conditions in Canberra were the frosty press conferences from both coaches after a game that was overshadowed by several controversial incidents. Arthur was livid after suggesting that a lop-sided penalty count had stopped the Eels finding any attacking flow. The Eels were on the wrong end of a 10-3 penalty count.
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The loss left Parramatta languishing at 4-7, with last year's grand finalists facing pressure to break into the top-eight after a sluggish start to 2023. Arthur was at a loss trying to understand after the game why his side had been pinged for so many penalties when they pride themselves on being a disciplined team.
"Nothing went our way. Very hard to come down here to Canberra when you get a 10-3 penalty count against you," he said. "We can't be told we've got great compliance by the referees and then get penalised 10 times, it can't happen.
"I never say anything about the referees but tonight we were hard done by. "We didn't have any ball, we had 38 per cent position in the second half.
"If we would have got some back-to-back sets we would have been OK, but we couldn't get any back-to-back possession." Tempers flared throughout the clash at GIO Stadium, with a pair of State of Origin hopefuls in potential hot water after being charged over first-half incidents.
Canberra enforcer Corey Horsburgh was sin-binned for a punch on Parramatta's Ryan Matterson, the Queensland hopeful not making heavy contact yet still potentially in trouble for throwing the strike. The incident left his Raiders coach fuming after the game, with Stuart blasting the inconsistency of officiating in the NRL after claiming Latrell Mitchell got away with similar incidents for the Rabbitohs last week.
“I think Corey shouldn’t have got 10 minutes. I thought that was a poor decision in regards to the sin-binning of Corey. That really put us under pressure," Stuart said. The Canberra mentor was also unimpressed with an apparent cannonball tackle from NSW powerhouse Junior Paulo that left Raiders prop Joe Tapine needing medical attention for a hyperextended knee.
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Paulo ultimately escaped being sin-binned over the incident despite being put on report. “I’m a mate of Junior’s and I don’t want to add any extra exposure, I suppose, to it all. But I had a player go off for that,” Stuart added.
“Corey Horsburgh pushed a player in the head. Corey got pushed in the head as well, when he was held by the jumper. “Latrell Mitchell last week pushed a player to the head twice. Nothing happened, he was allowed to play the ball - we got a player sent to the bin.
“If you’re going to change the interpretations around like that it’s just crap. You can’t change interpretations week to week. I feel sorry for the referees because they’re the ones under pressure when the interpretations keep getting changed every week. I don’t know who’s telling them."
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Horsburgh pushed his Origin case with 127m and 30 tackles without a miss, while Tapine returned from the injury after Paulo's tackle to complete a 174 metre, four-tackle bust performance. Paulo's lack of intent to tackle Tapine's knees might save him from a suspension, with Arthur insisting there was nothing in the tackle.
"It's not a cannonball ... there's no force in it whatsoever," the Eels coach said. "100 per cent (he shouldn't be charged). There's nothing in it."
The Eels were also lucky to avoid their own first-half sin-binning, with Bailey Simonsson allowed to stay on the field despite being reported and penalised for a hip-drop tackle on Jordan Rapana. The visitors capitalised on Horsburgh's absence for the game's first try on 33 minutes, with J'maine Hopgood grounding an impressive kick from Matterson.
But Canberra fired back with three straight tries - including one for NSW Origin hopeful Hudson Young - to go 12 points clear, a margin the Eels would never overturn. "We had to play tough, especially being a man down for 10 minutes," Canberra's coach added. We defended really, really well tonight ... we had to dig really deep in that period."
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