Video refs axed for England-NZ decider
Video referees Phil Bentham and James Child have been axed after it was found they made an error which may have cost England the Baskerville Shield on Saturday.
It was announced overnight that NRL grand final referee Gerard Sutton would have to settle for a place in front of the replay screen when the deciding Anglo-New Zealand Test is played at Wigan's DW Stadium on Saturday.
Super League whistler Ben Thaler will be in the middle, beating Sutton to the job after deliberation from a panel involving representatives from England, New Zealand and neutral French nominee Thierry Alibert.
But the gaffe which cost Bentham and Child any involvement was not the decision to overturn Sutton's recommendation that England prop James Graham had scored a fair try in the 69th minute with the Kiwis leading by six.
"The decision to restart that game after the Graham 'no try' with a tap was incorrect and should have been a goal-line dropout," tournament director Jon Dutton told NRL.com.
"The restart decision was made by the video referees, not Gerard Sutton."
The hosts needed only draw Saturday's Second Test at London Olympic Stadium to win the Shield because Great Britain are the holders.
England coach Steve McNamara described the error as "huge".
"In the opinion of the video refs, they were pretty conclusive that he didn't ground the ball," the coach said.
"The fact that the restart was wrong was probably very, very influential for us at that stage.
"I just think it was a discussion that took place. The restart was wrong. It should have been a goal-line dropout, not a 20 metre restart.
"It's a huge call with seven minutes to go."
Sutton and Richard Silverwood will be video referees on Saturday.
The tournament organisers have also quizzed England management on why Graham was allowed to play on after being apparently concussed as his head hit the ground in the act of crossing for the disallowed try. Rival prop Sam Moa said Graham didn't appear to know who he was when he got up.
Dutton said: "I have spoken to the England medical staff who have confirmed that, on assessment, James was lucid and showed no signs of concussion."
McNamara defended the decision to leave the Canterbury star on the field.
"James was fine," he said. "He smacked his face into the ground but he was fine."
Meanwhile, England second rower Brett Ferres has warned his side may try to match the off-loading game of their rival pack on Saturday after the Kiwis succeeded in making the home side work harder in defence last weekend.
"They passed a little bit more within the forwards and they certainly did play a bit more of an offload," Ferres said.
"I think we could probably play a little more there. We've got some fantastic offloaders in the side and it's something we could learn from them."
McNamara added: "We've always been good at that. It's an English strength, something we've always done.
"We've always been able to pass and play with the ball and it's something we've done well for the last couple of years and probably didn't do as well at the weekend.
"But you've got to give New Zealand credit for how they defended us as well."
Huddersfield's Ferres said the rucks were quicker under Sutton than under Thaler.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Herald reports that Canterbury winger Curtis Rona will return home on Wednesday to be present for the birth of a child.