Bunker cleared in Widdop try

St George Illawarra's controversial opening try against Manly on Saturday afternoon drew the ire of commentators, fans and the Manly coach but refs boss Tony Archer has confirmed the bunker had no say in any possible interference from Jason Nightingale on Daly Cherry-Evans.

‌The third-minute try to Gareth Widdop came in admittedly unusual circumstances.

Manly winger Matt Wright fielded a kick near his own line and was tackled, with fullback Tom Trbojevic moving into the dummy-half position. 

Perhaps he received a call that Cherry-Evans would assume dummy-half duties but Trbojevic retreated from the position as Daly Cherry-Evans moved towards the ruck. Cherry-Evans came into contact with Dragons fullback Jason Nightingale, with Cherry-Evans appearing to initiate the contact, but it prevented him getting to dummy-half.

Once Wright played the ball neither Cherry-Evans, by then disentangled from Nightingale, nor Dylan Walker – who was the next closest player – showed the same level of urgency as Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop, who was onside and square at marker, and scooped up the unattended ball to score a sneaky try.

The play was sent to the bunker as a try. Perhaps the on-field referees would have penalised Nightingale for interference on Cherry-Evans had they seen the contact but since it occurred before the play the ball the bunker wasn't able to consider it and the try was awarded with referees boss Tony Archer later confirming the bunker's handling of the decision.

 


Speaking after the game, Manly coach Trent Barrett was less than impressed.

"It's a pretty big one when the dummy-half can't get to dummy-half and they pick it up and score," Barrett said.

In regards to the bunker not being able to rule on the interference as it occurred prior to the play the ball, he added: "That's ridiculous. Mind boggling. I've never seen it before. You can't do it.

"Jason Nightingale shoved him out of the road to get to dummy-half. That didn't cost us the game but geez it didn't help… How they gave that a try is beyond me.

"Not making excuses for the rest of our 75 minutes but they don't help."

Cherry-Evans, who had questioned the referees on-field at the time, said it was a shame the interference couldn't be part of the bunker process.