Warriors coach Andrew McFadden has accused the NRL of caving to media pressure and changing the interpretation of the penalty try mid-year.
While they refused to blame the result on the incident, the Warriors were cruelled by a decision by the bunker to award Jayson Bukuya the first penalty try of the season in their 19-18 loss to Cronulla at Shark Park on Saturday night.
With the Sharks leading 12-10, Bukuya was pulled off the ball by Warriors back-rower Simon Mannering as they tussled for a Michael Ennis grubber close to the line.
With no one in front of him, Bukuya looked set to pounce on the ball in the in-goal, but Warriors skipper Ryan Hoffman argued on the field there was no certainty he was going to ground the ball.
Many were asking whether the penalty try was dead after a number of incidents this year that appeared to be worthy of a four-pointer being awarded.
Last week, the referees decided not to award the Sydney Roosters’ Joseph Manu a penalty try against the Warriors after he was pushed off the ball by Ken Maumalo in a similar incident, leaving the Auckland-based side scratching their heads.
McFadden agreed with his skipper there was no absolute certainty Bukuya would have got there, and the game’s decision makers had changed the interpretation without notifying clubs.
“To me that looks like a bit of media pressure,” McFadden said.
“We disagree with the decision. That’s a different interpretation to what they’ve been doing.”
Hoffman said: “There’s been quite a few this year that they couldn’t definitively know he was going to score the try.
“I don’t know what’s changed in the last couple of weeks to reckon there was no doubt he was going to score that try with a ball bouncing everywhere.”
The Bukuya incident was also similar to one in which Wests Tigers’ Chris Lawrence was denied a penalty try against Melbourne, with the whistleblowers deciding in that instance that the sin-binning of Richie Kennar was sufficient.
Sharks captain Paul Gallen said he was surprised it was awarded a penalty try, while coach Shane Flanagan called for consistency in the ruling.
“I thought it was a brave decision by the referees to award it,” Flanagan said.
“Because he would have scored it, bar (some doubt over) the grounding, there was no one back there. If that is a penalty try, I hope they continue to do it for the rest of the year.”