Canberra players were left shattered after the Roosters scored in the final stages to win the game. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
Two decisions by referees in the second half of the Roosters’ NRL grand final win attracted plenty of scrutiny, but the NRL is backing its officials for the calls they made.
NRL head of football Graham Annesley told Channel Nine after the game that he was satisfied with the actions of the referees in the 50th-minute sin-binning of Cooper Cronk and late confusion about an overturned “six again” call by referee Ben Cummins.
James Tedesco’s match-winning try in the 72nd minute of the 14-8 win over Canberra came on the back of a play at the other end where Cummins clearly signalled a repeat set of six for the Raiders but overturned his call during live play without the Raiders players noticing, leading to a turnover.
Cummins’s initial signal came after Raiders substitute Bailey Simonsson contested a bomb with Roosters full-back Tedesco. Slow-motion replays showed the ball came off Simonsson’s shoulder, which assistant referee Gerard Sutton and a touch judge spotted in real time, prompting Cummins’s change of heart.
“The head referee does call six more but then immediately gets a call from the assistant and one of the touch judges that it was off a Raiders player,” Annesley told Channel Nine.
“He immediately corrects that call and calls last tackle, and called last tackle four more times before the play broke down.
“It’s very disappointing that the game has been mired in controversy after that initial ‘six again’ call, but ultimately I believe the decision not to give six more tackles was correct.”
Annesley suggested if the initial ruling had not been overturned and the Raiders had managed to score their own decisive try, he would have been answering similar questions from outraged Roosters fans.
Coaches steer clear of criticism
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was also uncharacteristically circumspect, commiserating with the referees “if they did make a mistake”.
“No-one goes out there to make mistakes. They’ve got tough jobs,” he said in a post-match press conference.
“If it is the wrong call there’s not a referee that would go out there and try to make a mistake.
“If it is wrong I hope it’s not the spotlight of this evening.”
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said there was no point in going back and relitigating every refereeing decision throughout a match.
He said the video referee’s decision to send half-back Cronk to the sin bin for 10 minutes, after he hit Josh Papalii before the Raiders prop had a chance to touch the ball while he was charging at the try line from five metres out with half an hour left in the game, was arguably more impactful.
But the Roosters’ defence held firm with Cronk sidelined, while the Raiders could not stop the Roosters’ 60-metre team effort to win the game.
“If we’re going to go back to a decision, we could go back to lots of decisions, you can go through every decision,” he said.
“Sitting here talking about those decisions … I think there’s a lot tonight you can talk about, but we nailed the execution on an opportunity that we had.”
Tedesco’s try saw the Roosters win their second straight grand final, becoming the first team since the Brisbane Broncos in 1992 and 1993 to win successive premierships in a unified competition.