Gold Coast coach Neil Henry has blasted the referees after his side were dumped from the NRL finals in a controversial 44-28 loss to Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
Henry was treading a fine line not to call into question the credibility of referees Gerard Sutton and Gavin Badger and the bunker, however said he was owed an explanation after several calls went against his side on Friday night.
After seeing his side eliminated in front of 43,170 after a season in which they punched far above their weight, Henry said referees boss Tony Archer and his men should be called to account for what he saw as game-changing calls.
In particular he was angered by a decision to penalise David Mead for taking out the legs of Corey Oates as they contested a bomb.
He also questioned why Broncos centre James Roberts wasn’t penalised for kicking Ryan Simpkins in the play-the-ball.
Both incidents occurred in the lead up to Broncos tries and he called on the media to criticise the officials.
“I understand Tony Archer took some time out at halftime to explain to Darren Lockyer a penalty try situation but I hope he takes some time out to explain to me a couple of decisions out there,” Henry said.
“You talk about referees being protected species but I’ve got a huge question on David Mead going for the ball and getting a penalty, which was ultimately a momentum change and they went up the other end and scored a try.
“And I’ve got another one where a player kicks a defender in the back, he has two goes at him and they don’t do anything about it.”
The Broncos will advance to meet the loser of Saturday’s qualifying final between North Queensland and Melbourne, however the game could have turned out very differently if it wasn’t for a couple of controversial interventions from the bunker in the first half.
First, Jordan Kahu was awarded a penalty try after Konrad Hurrell kicked the ball from his grasp, a decision roundly panned by commentators but defended by Archer.
And when the video referee overturned a Kahu knock-on and awarded the Broncos the scrum feed, Brisbane ran up field and scored through Kahu on the back of an Anthony Milford break.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett praised the bunker for their decision to award a penalty try, calling it a gutsy decision.
“I’m just pleased they had the courage to do it because the rule is you can’t kick at the ball,” Bennett said.
“He was obviously going to score the try, he was over the line and it was all in place for that. If it happened to us I’d have to live with it.”
As they have been all year, the Gold Coast were brave to stay in the contest as long as they did after losing halfback Ash Taylor in the first half to a groin injury as well as having Zeb Taia scratched after suffering a quad injury in the warm up.
They also spent most of the second 40 with just two men on the bench after Simpkins went up the tunnel, however he later returned.
In the end the Broncos were the more classy side and deserved the win. While Henry conceded they didn’t do enough to deserve the victory, he was left with a sour taste in his mouth.
“Those two back-to-back (calls) were 12 points and at a crucial point of the game,” Henry said.
“As this team has done all year they’ve hung in and I’m flabbergasted by that.
“No doubt I’ll get some feedback but it’s no consequence to my men in there. They are upset about those decisions in particular.”