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The NRL said there were “no excuses” for South Sydney conceding a try from an eight-tackle set missed by the referee – as well as a second official entrusted with keeping count of tackles inside the ground.
NRL head of elite competitions Graham Annesley confirmed Newcastle’s Daniel Saifiti should never have scored when he did on Sunday, which allowed the Knights to go from 12-4 ahead to 18-4.
Kalyn Ponga and Tyson Gamble were tackled in the same spot in quick succession, which was missed by top whistleblower Grant Atkins and his second set of eyes inside McDonald Jones Stadium.
Annesley regretted the error, but admitted there were no guarantees more refereeing blunders wouldn’t happen during the finals.
The decision to award a Newcastle try after the ball bounced off Atkins’ legs, however, was the right call, said Annesley.
As for the eight-tackle howler, Annesley said: “There are no excuses for it, it’s an error, it’s wrong, it’s a simple refereeing error, and he’s miscounted the tackles.
“There are two tackles that happen literally on top of each other and back-to-back.
“It was a seven-tackle set, and the try was scored on the eighth tackle.
“Of course it is little consolation [to Souths] other than the fact the game is being accountable.
“The bunker doesn’t intervene with general play. There is a referees’ official in the stands who has audio contact, and one of their jobs is to help ensure the referee has the tackle count right.
Newcastle Knights prop Daniel Saifiti.Credit: Getty
“Even those measures don’t stop mistakes.
“In that particular incident, you have a seven-tackle set, a long break, they got the first few right, then we had that messy area near the try line.
“There were two quick play-the-balls in the exact same spot, and that’s clearly thrown their count.
“There are no excuses for it. It is a straight miss by the referee.”
Adam Clune scored a try when Latrell Mitchell lost the ball in-goal into the legs of Atkins, which did not allow Souths playmaker Cody Walker to get to the ball.
“[But] Atkins forms a view that this try would have been scored regardless of the ball hitting him,” Annesley said.
“The bunker forms the same view.”
Souths were ropeable with a third incident, where winger Greg Marzhew scored his third try before half-time, even though a pass from Kurt Mann the previous play was not called forward.
Another contentious issue from the weekend was Manly not receiving a penalty for Reuben Garrick being taken out in the air by Warriors fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold was left fuming with the lack of action, then confused further when he received mixed messages from the NRL over the weekend about what should have happened.
Annesley insisted no rules had been breached, and it was not a penalty, but referees boss David Fairleigh told Seibold the tackle was dangerous.
“The referee and bunker decided it was not breach of the rule and the outcome was not dangerous,” Annesley said.
“It concerns me every week before I watch games. Before every game I watch, it concerns me. I sit there hoping and praying everything will go well, and we don’t have issues we need to talk about on a Monday.
“Generally speaking, the strike rate of major controversies in big games, the percentage of something going wrong is very low, but I can’t stand here and tell you it won’t happen.”
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