Wests Tigers erupt as controversial penalty denies insane NRL comeback

Tim Sheens has pledged to have a conversation with NRL referees boss Graham Annesley, after the Wests Tigers were on the wrong end of a dubious whistle.

Wests Tigers player Luke Brooks is pictured being pushed in the back as players chase a Canberra kick on the left, and coach Tim Sheens pictured right.
Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens has indicated he plans to hold discussions with the NRL over his frustrations with refereeing in the club's loss to Canberra. Pictures: Fox NRL/Getty Images

West Tigers coach Tim Sheens says he will be taking the controversial ending of their 20-19 defeat at the hands of the Canberra Raiders up with NRL referees boss Graham Annesley after their incredible comeback was denied by a last-minute penalty. The lowly Tigers had surged back from 18-0 down in the second half to seize the lead late, only for the Raiders to win the game on a Jamal Fogarty penalty kick.

In a surprising turn, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart admitted he 'felt sorry' for backrower Isaiah Papali’i afrer he was called for the penalty for sliding into the legs of the Canberra halfback on his field goal attempt. The resulting whistle saw the Raiders win the game on a penalty goal taken directly in front of the posts.

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Fighting back from 19-18 down in the 76th minute after the Tigers had miraculously hit the front, the Raiders were gifted a second chance after Fogarty's initial attempt was wide. The second attempt found the middle, keeping the Raiders in the finals hunt during the crucial State of Origin stretch.

Speaking after the game, Sheens quipped that he wouldn't follow the lead of his Raiders counterpart and incur a hefty financial penalty by criticising the referees, but said he would be holding discussions with the NRL over the penalty at the earliest opportunity. It was a brutal turn of events for the Tigers, who were looking for a second straight victory after trouncing North Queensland before their bye last weekend.

“Well I’ll make my comments to the referees, but yeah, I’ve got a couple issues, for sure,” Sheens said in his post-game press conference. “I’m not gonna blow up.

"Ricky does that and it costs him $10,000, so I’m not gonna do the same but I’ll have my say - don’t worry about that. Two points are two points and every club is striving for them.

"This month is very, very important through the Origin series, when guys go out like Api (Koroisau), these wins are huge. Halfway through the season wins are huge and losses hurt you big time, there’s no doubt.”

Koroisau, who was watching from the sidelines amid his Origin commitments, was relatively circumspect when asked about the incident. He said was the nature of the NRL in 2023 that late contact to the kicker would inevitably result in a penalty, no matter how minor it was.

“I guess that’s the game these days, you touch the kicker or they end up in a vulnerable position there’s a chance of being penalised,” he said. “I think it was unlucky, I think he was on the ground sliding into him. It is what it is.”

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Stuart was remarkably conciliatory towards the Tigers after narrowly escaping with a crucial two points, saying he believed Papali’i's penalty was an 'accident'.

“He hit his leg and it’s unfortunate and I feel sorry for him because he’s only doing his best for his team and it was an accident,” Stuart said.“Yeah it went our way but I feel sorry for him.”

Sheens also said he would bring up a moment from early in the second half in which he believed the Tigers should have earned a penalty, which instead resulted in Canberra's third try. Luke Brooks was clearly pushed in the back as players chased Fogarty's kick on the sixth tackle.

Jamal Fogarty lays down a kick for the Canberra Raiders.
Jamal Fogarty was the hero for Canberra against WEsts Tigers, scoring two tries as well as the game-winning penalty goal. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Brooks was sent tumbling to the ground as the ball bounced off the right-hand post, with Fogarty able to chase down his own ball to score his second try of the night. Fans also picked up on the push, leaving many frustrated on social media.

“Brooksy getting pushed I think was a poor call, he was running towards the ball, in fact it bounced off the goalposts and came back towards him and he got pushed over," Sheens said. “You can’t push someone over, so I’m not happy about that one either and that resulted in a try, didn’t it.

“So there are a number of things that I think were poor.”

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