St George Illawarra Dragons flexed their premiership muscle but the form of the referees was rather less encouraging after a series of baffling calls marred their 32-10 NRL win over the Manly Sea Eagles last night. While the Dragons all but sewed up the minor premiership with the win at WIN Jubilee Oval to move four points clear at the top of the ladder, there is grave concern about the state of the NRL's officiating with both sides awarded dubious four-pointers.
Mark Gasnier, the Dragons centre, was the first to benefit when the former Australia international was given the green light by Bill Harrigan, the video referee, despite replays showing him losing the ball as he stretched for the line. Manly were incensed with the decision. Jamie Lyon, the captain, approached referee Shayne Hayne to inquire as to how Gasnier was given the benefit of the doubt. "Benefit of the doubt? He didn't even touch the ground," Lyon said.
Harrigan's explanation did little to clear up the situation. "It was benefit of the doubt, there was no separation," Harrigan said. As he watched the replay, Gasnier admitted: "It felt like I did [get the ball down] but when I was watching the replay I guess there was an element of doubt there. "I guess I got the benefit of the doubt ... it was kind of one of them 50-50 calls." "The ball was put down short of the line then rolled on to it." But while the 14,740-strong crowd was applauding the Gasnier try, which gave the Dragons a 10-0 lead after 30 minutes with Jamie Soward scoring a brilliant individual try early, they were soon left dumbfounded. With Manly trailing 16-4 after Michael Weyman's try just after the restart had cancelled out Tony Williams's effort at the end of the first half, Hayne then cleared what seemed an obvious forward pass for Keiran Foran's try.Brent Kite charged at the Dragons' line and popped a ball to Foran, who appeared to be standing in front of his teammate when given the ball. But having clawed back to within a converted try, Manly imploded when they let Beau Scott run 90 metres to seal the win. Winger Brett Morris completing the rout with his 17th try of the year.
In England, Super League side Leeds Rhinos were reeling yesterday from a major injury blow to Jamie Peacock, their England international prop forward, who was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. The 32-year-old needs a knee re-construction which will sideline him for up to eight months. He will miss Leeds' first Challenge Cup final for 11 years as well as the end-of-season Four Nations Series in Australia and New Zealand.
"I am stunned to be out of action for six to eight months and it has been a bit bewildering if I am honest," said Peacock. "The injury did not feel any worse than previous knocks but the scans have revealed the worst possible news * Agencies