An irate Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has hit out on a ruling that placed a ball boy in a position to impact a match his side lost 18-16 to Canterbury in highly controversial circumstances.
With his side trailing by two points with around two minutes to play, halfback Chris Sandow nailed an unlikely 40/20 and his side raced downfield for a quick tap.
Winger Vai Toutai got there first, screaming for the ball from the ball boy who tossed it to the winger, who himself passed the ball from the touchline to Sandow who took a quick tap and raced over to score what would have been a match-winning try.
But the play was called back because, under the new quick tap ruling, play can only continue if the ball boy places the ball on the sideline – not passes it to a player.
"I don't know how many times I've seen players running down and get the ball boy to throw the ball and it's play on. Vai actually passed the ball off the sideline. It's a stupid rule," said a furious Arthur in the post match press conference.
"I don't know what the best answer is but how many have we seen – they're supposed to be making the game faster and getting an attacking advantage, how many times have we seen them called back on those 40/20s? At least more than 50 per cent I would say.
"Vai actually passed the ball off the sideline – what more do they want us to do? Go up in the grandstand and pass it out of the grandstand?"
Parramatta co-captain Jarryd Hayne said he was left scratching his head after the ruling.
"I actually thought they were checking if it was a 40/20 [because the ball was close to going out on the full]. When they said the ball boy threw the ball to Vai then Vai threw it in, then we thought it was the ball boy that threw it in then Vai said it was him – you just put your hands up and scratch your head. The whole point of that rule is to make it faster.
"Vai was on the touch line, what do you expect a ball boy, he's probably 12, 13 years old, to race downfield?
"We've got a winger sitting there on the sideline passing the ball in because the ball boy can't get there from when it first goes out, our halfback scores a try and the refs want to call it back. You're scratching your head then next week it'll probably be a try. That's how the refs are going this year. Nearly every week with the way they're refereeing every game it's a lottery every week."
Arthur said with regular first grade referee Ashley Klein refereeing NSW Cup this week following some blunders in Melbourne's controversial 32-30 loss to Newcastle last week, then the two referees in the Eels/Bulldogs clash, Ben Cummins and Chris James, should also miss a game.
"A four-nil penalty count at the start of the game and we can't work out why. If you can go back and those four penalties, show me any one of them that could be a penalty... 14 sets to start the game, they have 10 sets."
Hayne also questioned the opening run of penalties.
"I remember one very clearly, we dominated the first three rucks, and for some reason the ref gives away a penalty.
"Then Isaac De Gois's one where he brushed across his shoulder [and was penalised for a high tackle], he moved his arm straight away. As soon as he got near his head he moved his arm straight away and the ref's blowing a penalty. I've seen hundred of those played on."
However both men also said they didn't want to take away from what was a high quality game of football, admitting the side needed to take its opportunities better.
"We're going to have to [accept it]. And we're going to have to make sure we win our next three games to make sure we're in the semi finals, that's all there is to it," Arthur said.