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Bird laughs off squirrel grip claim

Matt Encarnacion, Western Sydney Correspondent NRL.com Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - 10:40 PM

Titans co-captain Greg Bird was accused of a squirrel grip by Penrith forward Sika Manu during their Monday clash, but laughed off the claim. Copyright: Robb Cox

Titans co-captain Greg Bird has laughed off accusations by Penrith second-rower Sika Manu of a squirrel grip late in Gold Coast's 14-12 loss to Penrith on Monday evening.

Manu was penalised for lashing out after a tackle by Bird in 75th minute of the game but told on-field referee Gavin Morris that Bird was "grabbing my nuts".

Penrith officials said there would be no formal complaint made against the Titans skipper, who said he had no idea what Manu was raving about.

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"I don't know, I just tackled him. I didn't know what he was blowing up about. You get them ones... Nothing R-rated. Not that I know of. He wasn't that lucky," Bird said.

The NSW Origin representative was instead focused on what he perceived as a worrying trend of penalties in the ruck, a number of which were dubious in the tightly-contested game at Penrith.

"And at the end of the day, you can't find out what's going on with the referee because he's sending you away. The players want to continue the play on constantly so it's hard to address what's going wrong," he said.

Bird also accused Penrith players of deliberately playing the ball away from the markers, putting them offside.

"There's a lot of times in there where they're getting up and playing the ball two metres to the side of the ruck. Our players are getting offside, then getting penalised for not being square," he said.

"It's hard – the ruck is the lottery at the moment because it's so fast. I guess that's what they wanted, and the rule changes to speed it up.

"But you got to just hold on for grim life, otherwise they're playing the ball, so the balls are popping out every now and again. It's a frustrating penalty-a-thon out there."

Coach John Cartwright said he has often been left dumbfounded as to some of the penalties his team was copping during games.

"It's detracting from the game. In the end, it just slows the game down because normally there's a big break," he said.

"And sometimes I really don't know what the penalties are for. That's a worry. It's a worry for everyone, for the players, the fans. But whenever you get a game that's bogged down with penalties, it's hard for the players to show what they train for all week."

Having won the second half 6-2, Cartwright pointed to a slow start from his side as the primary reason for the loss.

"It's probably similar to the games we've played all year really. We were down in some key areas," he said.

"I thought our support play was down. I thought we just missed a few too many tackles on some of their key players that we targeted we had to stop - the big winger [Josh] Mansour, Jamal [Idris].

"I thought we addressed that pretty well at half-time and it was a bit of a slog the second half. But it's pretty well how we've been playing most of the year.

"I thought we hung in really well. At 8-0, it could've gone away from us a bit. But we stuck to our job. With any luck at the death, we could've come away with another last minute win."

The loss snapped Gold Coast's four-game winning streak, and they now sit in fourth spot ahead of next week's visit to Leichhardt Oval against the in-form Tigers.