The Cronulla Sharks had a major scalp in their sights against South Sydney but the NRL’s crackdown once again had a major impact.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have bounced back from a 50-0 thrashing at the hands of the Melbourne Storm with a 32-22 win over the Cronulla Sharks.
But as has been the case all weekend, another alleged piece of foul play has played a major role in the match.
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While on Friday night the Broncos were ruined by a 10 minute stretch where they were down to 11 men, and the Raiders appeared to thrive after Josh Papalii’s send off, a bizarre moment set up the victory for the Rabbitohs.
With seven minutes left and the score 20-16, referee Chris Sutton stopped the game after three tackles in a set with nothing seemingly happening.
The Souths players were even baffled by the call as the referee began walking back to the place the first tackle of the set was made.
Cody Walker had cut through the line, only to be caught by Sharks half Chad Townsend.
As he fell to the ground, the Bunker appeared to find a crusher tackle as Walker grabbing his head, but Fox League commentator Braith Anasta ripped in as it appeared to be just a regulation tackle.
“Are we going back two plays for a penalty for that?” Anasta said. “That isn’t even a crusher. That isn’t even a crusher – that’s a horrible call. And he’s on report – come on.
“I can’t even sit here and try and protect that call and act like that’s OK because that is a joke.
“And we go back 20m, stop the play, kill the momentum, no player had any issue with that. We’d moved on. Chad was on the other side of the field, talking to his players, not even knowing that he was involved in an indiscretion. And it’s a big penalty as well.”
Sharks coach Josh Hannay clearly didn’t want to say too much, calling it a “soft penalty”.
“It’s getting pretty confusing at the moment, the game is being stopped mid sequence just to come back to something two or three plays for something that happened and was so innocuous as well,” he said. “At the moment, it sort of stunting a pretty good product with this stop-start mentality the game has got at the moment.”
It turned out to be the decisive penalty as Walker scored what was the match sealing try right next to the posts.
It was soon followed up by a rare try to forward Jai Arrow, blowing the lead to 32-16, before the Sharks’ Mawene Hiroti scored in the final minute.
After the match, Michael Ennis said it was “beyond a joke” for the Townsend call to be pulled back despite the Rabbitohs being the better team.
“It was an innocuous nothing in it tackle form Chad Townsend and they went back two plays, gave a penalty on the back of that, moments later Cody Walker scored, then they go the Jai Arrow try and it was game set and match Cronulla,” Ennis said. “I think they’ll be livid the Cronulla Sharks with that call, they’ll be filthy and they should be.”
Although it may sound like a broken record at this point, social media again slammed the NRL’s crackdown.
Even Souths star and new Broncos recruit Adam Reynolds said it’s getting a bit petty with all the calls.
“I think we’re sort of nitpicking everything and the officials have got a view on it, the coaches, the players, everyone’s got a view on it. We’ve just got to sit back, relax a bit and either allow change, be happy with it and get on with it or have a look at it and cut it out.”