Referees boss Tony Archer has conceded the penalty that allowed Gareth Widdop to send Saturday’s NRL elimination final into extra time should not have been given.
Canterbury eventually came up 11-10 winners over St George Illawarra in golden point, courtesy of a Josh Reynolds field goal.
But not before a Widdop penalty goal after the siren forced the game into extra time.
After the Bulldogs went ahead 10-8 late in the match courtesy of a 78th minute Shaun Lane try, Widdop attempted a short kickoff from the re-start. The ball was knocked on by Sam Perrett before it bounced off his opposite winger Jason Nightingale and Lane picked it up.
Referee Jared Maxwell ruled that Lane was offside and awarded the Dragons a penalty, from which Widdop subsequently kicked a goal to level it up at 10-all.
But as Nightingale played at the ball, Lane was put onside, so a scrum should have been set with a Dragons’ feed instead of a penalty.
“For a player to remain offside under these circumstances, the referee needs to determine that the ball is touched by an opponent, without retaining it,” Archer said.
“The rules state that touching the ball means intentionally playing it with any part of the person – a ricochet or rebound does not count as a touch. The referee makes a live decision to penalise the Bulldogs, which cannot be reviewed by the video referee. Upon review of the match, it was determined that Nightingale, by contesting for the ball, is deemed to be playing at the ball.
“However, the referee did not have a clear view of the contact with Nightingale, and therefore could not rule definitely that Nightingale had intentionally played at the football.”
Archer, however backed his referees to continue to make calls over the next three weeks of the finals series as they see fit,
“Our match officials are charged to make decisions in real time and I always encourage them to back their judgment. I’ll continue to encourage them to do it over the remainder of the finals series,” Archer said.