An incensed Souths coach Michael Maguire has scolded the NRL’s multi-million bunker and claimed he would call Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to brush up on the rules of rugby union after two controversial refereeing moments plagued the Broncos’ wild win over the Rabbitohs on Friday night.
Anthony Milford snapped a dubious 78th-minute field goal after appearing to fumble the ball in the lead-up to settle the contest 25-24 at ANZ Stadium – barely 10 minutes after also being the centre of attention in Tautau Moga’s bizarre try that levelled the scores.
Rabbitohs skipper Sam Burgess also said lead referee Ashley Klein was “confused” as the voice of an emotional Maguire, who is normally so reserved in post-match press conferences, wavered on several occasions when he spoke about his players “busting their arses” after the loss.
In a game plagued by multiple referrals to the NRL Bunker, on-field officials didn’t check Milford’s handling in the lead-up to the game-deciding one-pointer in which he appeared to momentarily lose the ball.
“I think the on-field ref said we’ve got to have a look at [Milford’s field goal], but sure enough they actually called it. That’s the decision made.
“We’re spending a lot of money in areas of our game and we’ve got to get them right, especially in moments like that. Those games change your season. Those two points are what every team is fighting for. We’ve got a multi-million dollar system in place and everyone in this room saw it.
“Was it a knock-on or wasn’t it a knock-on? You can say that, but I can’t because it’s around decisions. Make a call. I don’t want to have to get charged 10 grand.
“Can you [then] explain that to all the Souths fans that continually turn up to our ground that are passionate around our club, we’re a building team with young kids … they have to sit in the change room there disappointed because of things that went on out there on the field? Ridiculous.”
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett claimed Milford had not lost control of the ball and the player himself was adamant it was a fair catch.
Rabbitohs officials will also seek clarity from the NRL over a first-half concussion incident involving Milford, who jumped to his feet to kick a penalty goal after a Sam Burgess hit before being taken off immediately for a Head Injury Assessment.
The call was made on the instruction of the Broncos’ medico Dr Peter Hackney, who followed the NRL protocol of making a sideline assessment from vision provided to him when the on-field trainer initially cleared Milford to stay on the field.
“The trainer didn’t make the decision,” Bennett said. “The doctor wanted him off. That’s why he came. Anthony had no symptoms. I spoke to him at half-time and it was just the doctor [going] by the letter of the law, which is totally fine.”
Milford wandered back onto the field in the second half after passing his tests and was then involved in the game’s two flashpoints.
The first came when he scrambled over the line before spitting the ball out the back for Tautau Moga to score.
Klein sent it upstairs as a try, but replays were inconclusive over whether Milford had actually grounded the ball.
Fumed Maguire: “I might ring up Michael Cheika and find out about his rules in rugby union?”
“I think we might start playing rugby union down close to the line. I thought when you cross the line and the arm actually touches the ground that that is actually classed as a tackle but they seem to say, ‘play on and let’s throw the ball back and score a try’.”
Added Burgess: “I think [Klein] was a bit confused at times as well. I think if you see the footage of our conversations – it’s all recorded – he seemed pretty confused with the calls. It’s out of his hands I guess when it goes up to the big screen.”
Corey Oates’ first-half double powered the Broncos to a 10-point lead before the Rabbitohs, thanks to two try assists from Robbie Farah, who was unused in the first half, helped the hosts reel off 16 straight points.
But the late intervention of Moga and Milford settled the result with Bennett, who was spotted deep in conversation with Maguire in the Rabbitohs’ sheds after the game, admitting even he was confused with some decisions.
“When they get across the try line I’ve got no idea when the play is dead, I’ll be honest with you,” Bennett said of the Moga try after Milford appeared held up. “I don’t think there’s any rules they go by.
“It was a crazy game. That’s the best way to describe it. I couldn’t put it any other way. There were lots of controversial moments. Just weird.”
Brisbane Broncos 25 (C Oates 2 T Moga K Sims tries A Milford 4 goals A Milford field goal) South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 (D Cook A Crichton R Jennings S Talakai tries B Goodwin 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Chris Butler, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 11,083.