‘Zero consolation’: Bennett takes aim at officials over golden-point blunder

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A fired-up Wayne Bennett said it was “zero consolation” the NRL had admitted Canberra knocked the ball on just a minute before they kicked the winning field-goal against his Dolphins on Saturday.

Bennett celebrates his 900th game as a first-grade coach on Saturday, but is as passionate as ever about officials – and the bunker – getting it right, especially when the game is on the line in golden point.

Raiders forward Hudson Young took a pass from Jack Wighton and dropped it into Ray Stone, only for the touch judge to tell referee Peter Gough the ball had gone backwards. Three plays later, Jamal Fogarty potted a field goal to seal the 31-30 result, which sparked emotional scenes in Wagga.

Bennett knew Young had knocked the ball on during the game, as did his players, who reacted on the spot.

The Young error was one of five second-half mistakes Bennett pointed out to referees’ boss Jared Maxwell on Monday morning.

Bennett argued Young should have been sin-binned in the 72nd minute when he tackled Jeremy Marshall-King from an offside position.

Canberra’s Hudson Young knocks the ball on in golden point last Saturday.Credit: SMH

Bennett makes a habit of not criticising officials after games, but could not hide his frustrations when informed about the NRL’s apology.

“I think anyone who knows rugby league knew he knocked that ball on,” Bennett told this masthead. “That’s why the players reacted straight away on the field.

“[Canberra coach] Ricky [Stuart] has been the victim of those [wrong calls]. But with all the vision we have around the game now, it still defies belief the touch judge, the referee or the bunker doesn’t pick that up.

“You’re 30-all, you’re in overtime – it’s crucial. The games are so toughly fought, it’s disappointing stuff. We saw it from the coach’s box it was a knock-on. The video ref could have quickly told him.

Jack Wighton celebrates with teammates scoring a try against the Dolphins in Wagga Wagga on Saturday.Credit: Getty

“The hollow part about all this is it’s zero consolation today. That’s the part that pisses me off more than anything else, it’s the fact I have to suck it up and live with it.”

Bennett said the bunker had the ability to inform a referee about a hip-drop tackle or an offence that unfolds three or four players earlier. And once play was stopped for Stone to be taken from the field for a head injury assessment, Bennett said the bunker could have highlighted the knock-on at that point.

“They stopped the game because Ray Stone was knocked out, and we have had instances of hip-drops where it’s happened three or four tackles before, they’ve stopped the game and gone back to penalise a player,” Bennett said.

“Why not intervene in that moment [on Saturday] for the knock on? I would have been happy to walk away with one point, but they created the extra time. I said it at the time and I’ll say it again, all it [golden point] does is put referees under more pressure, and that was a good example of it.

“The only people happy are Canberra because they won. The rest of us are left with disappointment.”

The loss left the Dolphins sitting ninth, and had they made the most of the Young error and kicked their own field-goal, they could have jumped to as high as sixth.

NRL head of elite football Graham Annesley started his Monday briefing by saying he would show the Canberra error “I’m not happy to show you”.

Annesley said the touch judge made the call the Dolphins had knocked the ball backwards, and the bunker could only step in if there had been an act of foul play.

“It should have been a knock-on by Hudson Young,” Annesley said. “As unfortunate as it is, there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome of the game. These things happen in games, everyone is out there trying to make decisions and trying to make them as correctly as possible. Unfortunately, this one happened at an inopportune moment that impacted the outcome of the game.”

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