Bunker drama sinks Dragons

A bizarre Will Hopoate try, in which Tony Williams was ruled to have accidentally knocked on in the lead-up, has the NRL’s bunker again in the headlines after Canterbury’s 34-16 win over St George Illawarra.

After referee Jared Maxwell referred the try, bunker match review official Luke Patten ruled Williams didn’t deliberately knock-on after juggling the ball before Hopoate’s game changing 60th minute four-pointer.

It was a decision that former grand final referee Bill Harrigan labelled as “ludicrous” while commentating for Triple M.

Williams quickly put the effort, which was soon coined the `Hand of Dog’ try, down to divine intervention.

It pushed the Bulldogs out to a 10-point lead after 60 minutes at ANZ Stadium on Monday before 20,153 fans, a lead they never relinquished.

Commentators, players and officials alike were bewildered at what happened in the lead up to Hopoate’s try as Williams effectively passed the Steeden to himself as he approached the Dragons line, a move once made famous by Dally Messenger and long outlawed in the NRL.

“Only God knows what happened there,” Williams said.

“I got hit on the inside, the ball popped up and I kept on running and the ball ended up in my hand. It was lucky but you make your own luck.

“I didn’t do it deliberately, if one of their players had touched it would have been different but I was pretty confident they would give it a try.

However Dragon coach Paul McGregor saw things differently.

“I am still not sure what it was,” he said.

“But apparently it was passed into his own hand and went forward but that is acceptable.

“So you pass it into your own hand and the ball goes forward and you regather and that is acceptable, work that one out for me please.”

Dogs coach Des Hasler took a more abstract view.

“It was a good show and go wasn’t it,” he said.

“I think you will find in the rules you can’t intentionally throw it forward. It stuck to his hand he had too much grip.

Maxwell explained the decision to an exasperated Dragons captain Gareth Widdop “there was no deliberate push forward, it’s not a knock on unless it touches someone”.

According to NRL rules, a player who knocks on deliberately will be penalised. But play is allowed to proceed if a player accidentally knocks on and regathers, and that is the way the bunker ruled.

The try was a crucial turning point and broke much of the Dragons’ spirit.

Kerrod Holland added a penalty goal soon after and when Josh Reynolds pounced on a dropped ball in the 70th minute to race away and score the game was over.

It was a deflating end to what had promised to be a closely-fought game throughout an entertaining first half.

Kurt Mann and Tyson Frizell scored tries for the Dragons. Sam Perrett, Michael Lichaa and Moses Mbye also crossed for first half four-pointers as the Dogs enjoyed a 16-12 lead at halftime.

Mann scored his second shortly after the break to tie the scores at 16-all.

Curtis Rona scored out wide off a lovely Will Hopoate pass in the 58th minute before Hopoate’s unusual touchdown.

Williams’ touch brought back memories of Diego Maradona’s `Hand of God’ moment at the 1986 FIFA World Cup and Manly’s `Hand of Foran’ in the NRL’s final series several seasons ago.

It was also the second such instance of a handy play on Monday after Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz punched a ball into the net to send Brazil packing at the Copa America tournament.

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