Ricky responds, NRL breaks silence over referee farce

Scott Bailey
Ricky responds, NRL breaks silence over referee farce

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has launched a measured attack at the NRL as the league admitted a touch judge made a crucial error during the Raiders' controversial 28-24 loss to Cronulla.

After the Sharks led 22-6 at the break on Friday night, Canberra centre Joey Leilua crossed twice to narrow the gap to four points early in the second half before the Raiders were dealt one of the most farcical calls of the season.

As Cronulla spread the ball right, the ball brushed past the upper arm of centre Jesse Ramien, which appeared to prompt touch judge Rick MacFarlane to raise his flag despite no one crossing the sideline.

Referee Gerard Sutton put the whistle to his mouth - at which point the Raiders' defence stopped - but didn't blow it, allowing Sione Katoa to cross and make it 28-18.

The play was sent to the bunker as a no-try for a possible Ramien knock-on, but none was found and the on-field call was overturned.

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Stuart did well to remain measured. Pic: Getty

"I just criticised my players in there for not playing the whistle. Then they tell me the flag went up and the referee called knock on," Stuart said.

"So what are they meant to do?"

Canberra captain Josh Hodgson said it was a natural reaction for the players to stop in the line.

"You saw the touchie's flag. He put it up and half put it down ... as soon as you see a flag you stop on your feet," Hodgson said.

"We were all just waiting for the whistle and they ran through and scored.

"He called no try, and I don't think there was definitive proof he didn't touch it."

Referee Gerard Sutton is faced by confused Raiders players. Pic: Getty

The NRL admitted after the game the touch judge had erred and the bunker's decision would also be the subject of an investigation.

"It wasn't out. The touchie shouldn't have put his flag up," an NRL spokesman said.

"The subjective part about bunker decisions around the review (of the try) is going to be reviewed."

Raiders fullback Brad Abbey was denied a try with 10 minutes to go as Canberra looked to mount a comeback despite the ball appearing to have been thrown backwards before Jordan Rapana later crossed.

"I only saw the replay once and to me it went well behind a lot of passes that have been let go this year," Stuart said as he questioned a number of the NRL's crackdowns.

Andrew Fifita has scored for Cronulla in their controversial 28-24 NRL win over Canberra

The result provisionally moves the Sharks into the top four while Canberra's season is on life support, three wins out of the eight with five games against finals-bound teams to come.

Valentine Holmes and Wade Graham were both superb for the Sharks as they scored first-half tries but coach Shane Flanagan conceded fortune favoured his side.

"You need a bit of luck in games, and we might've got some there," Flanagan said.