NRL referees boss Jared Maxwell has backed the calls that led to two tries to Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton being disallowed in Thursday night’s 34-20 loss to South Sydney in Canberra.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart questioned the decisions by the Bunker and told reporters at the post-match press conference: “Anybody with common sense in regard to rugby league knows that they were two tries”.
However, Maxwell – the NRL’s GM elite officiating – said both rulings were “spot on” as Emre Guler had stopped in the defensive line in the lead up to the first disallowed try and Wighton had caught the ball on the inside of Corey Harawira-Naera before crossing the try line a second time.
“I am very comfortable with the way the Bunker explained the decisions and processed the decisions,” Maxwell said. “They were two different types of obstruction but from my point of view, I think they got the decisions spot on."
While Stuart accused Rabbitohs playmaker Benji Marshall of “gamesmanship” after running into Guler as he attempted to stop Wighton from scoring, Maxwell said he was likely to have lost sight of the ball carrier because of the presence of the Canberra prop in the defensive line.
Blight on the game: Stuart laments 'common-sense calls'
“In first case, Benji Marshall has probably lost total vision of the ball carrier and he can’t slide to fill that gap like he would normally be expected to do because there was an attacking player ahead of the ball,” Maxwell said.
“We need them to be able to have those opportunities that close to the line and from my point of view that’s how it was processed and it was officiated quite well by the Bunker.
“That was consistent with many other decisions we have had with players stopping in the line.”
In the second incident, Harawira-Naera fell to the ground in front of Dane Gagai as he tried to avoid an obstruction but Maxwell said Wighton had received the ball on the inside of him and ran behind the second-rower.
“We are all for rewarding good play but we put a bit of onus on the players to get their play right and where we have a guy catching a ball inside of the lead runner, the defence shouldn’t have to contend with him because all of a sudden he is in front of the ball,” Maxwell said.
“We want the sweep runner to catch the ball beyond the inside shoulder of the lead runner to allow the defender to still slide to get a shot at the ball carrier.
“If it is caught on the outside of the lead runner then we still weigh up the defensive decision, so now the onus is on the defender.
“We want them to catch the ball on the outside of that lead runner and then we can weigh up what the defence does according to that.”
Match Highlights: Raiders v Rabbitohs
Wighton said he was disappointed to have the tries disallowed as the Raiders mounted a fightback late in the second half against a 12-man Souths team, who had forward Jacob Host sin-binned.
“It hurts, I can definitely see how they could go the other way and be tries,” Wighton said.
"It always hurts but I’m always big on not complaining, so we just have to go again next week."