NRL head of football Graham Annesley has admitted Manly were dudded by an incorrect forward pass call in the final minute of their 19-16 loss to Parramatta.
The Sea Eagles looked set to pull off a thrilling comeback from 18-2 down, before a Reuben Garrick try was wrongly denied in the final minute.
Annesley’s admission came as Manly coach Des Hasler said he planned to speak to referees boss Bernard Sutton over inconsistencies with the game’s new six-again rule.
But Hasler’s major gripe after Saturday night’s loss at Bankwest Stadium will be Garrick’s non-try.
A Tom Trbojevic ball put Garrick over the line from 20 metres out, only for touch judge Liam Kennedy to rule the pass forward.
Replays appeared to show the ball had gone backwards out of the hand before travelling forward in the air, making it a legal play.
“The forward pass call was incorrect,” Annesley said.
“But it was called by the touch judge just as it would have been last year. A second referee would have had no impact on that decision.”
The error is poorly timed given the NRL claimed the move to one referee would make for better sideline eyes, given all officials are now full-time.
Poor in the first half, Manly looked out of the game when Parramatta prop Kane Evans made the most of a Sea Eagles error in the first set after break to take a 12-point lead.
But then the Sea Eagles lifted, becoming one of the few teams to mount a comeback after struggling for possession early under the NRL’s new rules.
Trbojevic put Jorge Taufua over from a mid-field scrum to reduce the margin before Dylan Walker ran on the last to make it 18-12 with 26 minutes remaining.
After Mitchell Moses nailed a field goal with six minutes remaining to make it 19-12, Taufua barged over again to make it a three-point game with three to play.
The Sea Eagles again had all the running in the final minute, before the touch judge blunder.
“We didn’t get much rub of the green tonight,” Hasler said.
That’s what you’re telling me (with Annesley’s comment). We won the game.
“To be truthful we probably shouldn’t have been in that position coming down to the last play (after the first half) but I was very impressed with the way this group fought back.”
Hasler was less impressed with the consistency in ruck speed.
“For the first time a real inconsistency in the six-again call, so I will be talking to Bernard Sutton about that,” Hasler said.
“I’m still encouraged by what I’m seeing, but we don’t want to take it too far.”
The forward pass call overshadowed what was a real litmus test for the Eels in the first match against another genuine contender this season.
The win kept them atop the ladder and gave them their best start to a season in 31 years.
Maika Sivo was the star as he set up two first-half tries with offloads, before Moses held his nerve with a late field goal.
Usually renowned for his bullocking runs, Sivo popped the ball back to Michael Jennings for Parramatta’s first try.
He then backed it up with a one-handed offload for Dylan Brown to cross on the half-time siren after a nicely-worked scrum play.
“He’s got better,” coach Brad Arthur said.
“We don’t want to just have the attitude of just get the ball and run. We want to see when he gets into backfield set up for support.”