'Ridiculous' ruling but Wayne says it was right
It was a crucial decision at a critical time in the game and while it left Panthers coach Ivan Cleary exasperated his opposition coach on Friday night, Wayne Bennett, said the match officials made the right call.
With scores locked together at 4-all with 17 minutes left to play, Broncos fullback Darius Boyd put in a grubber kick that travelled well past the dead-ball line before Panthers fullback Matt Moylan took the ball and started heading towards the 20-metre line for a tap restart.
But before he could get past his own try-line referee Matt Cecchin called him back for a line dropout, saying the Penrith custodian had made the ball dead by not allowing the ball to bounce first past the dead-ball line.
Cleary, who played 95 of his 186 career games at fullback, was stunned by the decision at the post-match press conference but Bennett said he had learned from previous experience that the correct decision was made.
There was significant fall-out in the wake of Newcastle's 16-12 win over the Roosters in Round 20 last year when Sione Mata'utia was allowed to take the tap restart despite taking the ball over the dead-ball line following a Roosters kick into the in-goal, although Mata'utia had not yet touched down outside the field of play before taking possession.
"We were at Newcastle last year when it happened. Playing the Roosters in a pretty tight game and Sione grabbed the ball and they ruled it dead," Bennett said after the Broncos' 8-5 Houdini-like escape on Friday night.
"There was a blow-up after the game and early in the week about it and they became more conscious of the rule after that.
"That's the rule, he got it right."
Boyd himself said he had fallen foul of the rule in the past but Cleary was not so easily placated, describing it as "one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen in football".
"He almost ran into the stand to get the ball back! I don't really know, I'm not sure of the rule or whether it's a rule, I'm not sure why it would be highlighted like that tonight. Maybe they're trying to highlight so we change it," Cleary said.
"Ridiculous and a massive, massive change in a very tight game; instead of getting seven tackles you get to defend your line again.
"The question I would ask is whether anyone at the stadium or anyone watching at home would find it necessary to bring that rule up tonight? Completely out of context, no common sense in a game like that?
"There's a whole lot of discretion all the way through the game all the time by players, officials, everyone. This is not a game of black and white; that's all I'll say on that."