NRL referees boss Tony Archer admits the on-field officials should have blown fulltime before Melbourne scored their dramatic winning try against St George Illawarra on Monday.
The Dragons were left fuming after winger Young Tonumaipea dived over in the corner to score a try and seal a come-from-behind 28-24 victory at AAMI Park, claiming the Storm hadn’t played the ball before the siren sounded and the game should have concluded.
Archer agreed Matt Cecchin should have called time, but said he was only able to come to that conclusion after watching several freeze-frame shots of the incident.
“The siren and the play the ball were all but simultaneous,” Archer said.
“But, technically, the siren sounded a split second before the Melbourne player heeled the ball.
“So, in that sense, the referees’ call was wrong and the final play should not have proceeded.
“We were only able to work this out by going through the final moments of the game, frame by frame, so you can appreciate how difficult it would be for a referee to make a call with so much to consider with that degree of accuracy out in the middle.”
Archer said Cecchin and assistant referee Gavin Atkins wouldn’t be stood down from this weekend’s fixtures and that the NRL would implement plans to ensure the mistake did not happen again.
“We are working on mechanisms for the time keeper and the video ref to count down the time to alleviate the problem in the future,” he said.
“We’re looking to implement it as soon as possible. I am disappointed we got it wrong.
“But we are working hard to improve our performances and there is a number of factors that go into the determination of all matches.
“I have spoken to Matt, we are professional referees and we take our craft very seriously.”
Furious Dragons coach Steve Price said earlier on Tuesday he knew the decision was wrong and his players were devastated to miss the chance to end their 15-year losing run in Melbourne in such controversial circumstances.
“I’ve watched it a number of times after the game and my coaching staff and my players feel the ball hadn’t been played when the siren had blown. It’s a hard one to take.
“It’s hard to cop at the moment, it was a great game of football and both teams threw everything at each other. We’re hurting.”
Archer said he’d contacted Price and apologised for the error and said that despite his frustrations, the Dragons’ mentor understood the difficulty of making the decision.
“I have spoke to Steve Price and indicated that we got the decision wrong and that it was a very difficult decision in live time,” he said.
“He understood the enormity of the decision and where I was coming from.”
The Tonumaipea try wasn’t the only controversial incident in the game with a Trent Merrin four-pointer awarded despite Josh Dugan appearing to be in an offside position in the build up.
However, Archer said he had no problem with the try being awarded.
“I was comfortable with the process,” he said.
“The touch judge called the chasers onside. The video referees ruled that as the ball was kicked, Dugan’s foot was above the line.
“I am comfortable that there was insufficient evidence to overturn the decision.”