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Annesley clears ref of last-second call in controversial Canberra climax



The NRL says referee Adam Gee was correct in not paying a last-second penalty to St George Illawarra in the loss to Canberra that officially ended their finals hopes.

Down 24-22 on Sunday afternoon, the Dragons were on the attack through winger Mathew Feagai, who broke the line before being tackled 15 metres from the tryline by Raiders forward Corey Harawira-Naera.

Feagai attempted to stand and play the ball to give his team one last chance to score but appeared to be illegally held down by Harawira-Naera, who was likely hoping to slow the game down in the dying seconds.

But referee Gee blew the game to an end, denying the Dragons a penalty and sealing a two-point win for the Raiders that officially ended the joint venture’s playoff aspirations.

The Dragons defeated the Raiders in similar circumstances in round 16, with Ben Hunt deliberately lying on Canberra’s Joe Tapine in a tackle to help his side hold on for their own two-point win.

But on Monday, the NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley said the referee made the right call in the rematch, saying no penalty should have been awarded to Feagai.

On-field referees rely on a timekeeper speaking through their earpiece, not the game clock seen on TV, to know when full-time must be called.

As a result, there is sometimes a slight lag between the timekeeper officially bringing the game to an end and the broadcast game clock expiring. 

Annesley said Feagai could not earn a penalty for being held down in the ruck, because by the time he stood up to attempt to play the ball, the referee had already brought the game to an end.

“Any technical infringement that might take place by the defender is irrelevant because the ball hasn’t been brought back into play (because the game has ended),” Annesley told reporters.

“And the referee can’t extend the play for a technical infringement to award a penalty.”

The Dragons had lost their captain’s challenge by the last play of the game but had they not, they could have challenged the referee’s decision to blow full-time.

But Annesley said a captain’s challenge would have been unsuccessful, because with the ball being out of play, the referee was correct in blowing the game to an end.

“They would have lost their challenge had they had one because time had expired and we couldn’t restart the game for a technical infringement,” Annesley said.

Annesley also pointed out that Feagai knocked the ball on in the tackle.

“Not only could we not have restarted play because the tackle had been completed, but we could also not have restarted play because they knocked on in the ruck,” he said.

The two-point victory keeps the Raiders’ finals hopes alive. 

Canberra likely need to win their last three games and hope the Roosters lose two of theirs in order to secure a spot in the finals.



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