The NRL have taken the rare step of benching a bunker duo mid-round after they committed a crucial error in St George Illawarra’s four-point loss to Cronulla.
Steve Clark and Ben Galea were on Saturday night pulled from Sunday’s match between Gold Coast and Penrith following their botched call in Kogarah.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor lashed out at the officials post-game after watching his team go agonisingly close to pulling off an incredible comeback.
His team were down 14 points with almost half-an-hour to go when they scored two tries in five minutes to set up a grandstand finish.
They blew two chances to in the final two minutes to steal the win, however were left to rue the bunker’s decision to award a try to Jack Williams early in the game.
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor will also be left to rue the bunker’s decision to award Jack Williams a try early in the contest.
Replays showed Dufty grounded the ball in-goal before Williams.
“Pretty clear, right? So how do they keep getting it wrong and who’s accountable for it? It’s a stuff up but, in the end, there’s the difference,” McGregor said.
“The person who’s watching this should, and all you guys should make enough song and dance to do something about it, eh, because it’s not good enough.”
Late on Saturday night, NRL head of football Graham Annesley said Clark and Galea would be replaced by Jared Maxwell and Bryan Norrie on Sunday.
“The bunker decision to award a try to Jack Williams in tonight’s Sharks-Dragons game was incorrect,” Annesley said.
“Steve Clark and Ben Galea were due to officiate again tomorrow in the Titans-Panthers game as bunker officials.
“They have now been relegated, and will be replaced by Jared Maxwell and Bryan Norrie.”
It was a thrilling end to an entertaining contest at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, where both sides defied the wet conditions to combine for nine tries.
Zac Lomax was involved in two contenders for the try of the year, but it was not enough to prevent the irrepressible form of Sharks star Shaun Johnson.
The league leader in try assists added two more, taking his tally to 16, was involved in a third, and scored a fourth himself in another stellar display.
He was supported by prop Royce Hunt, who made 196 metres off the bench.
The win might have come at a cost, though, with halfback Chad Townsend (calf) and Jesse Ramien (hamstring) both suffering injuries.
In a high-octane opening, both teams traded early tries before the Dragons produced one for the highlight reels.
A break by Dufty resulted in a push down the left flank before switching to the right, where Hunt kicked for Lomax, who grubbered for himself to score.
However, the Sharks seized momentum off the back of four straight six-again calls which resulted in three successive tries, all involving Johnson.
The New Zealand international had a hand in Sione Katoa going over, waltzed through himself for the second, then grubbered for Will Kennedy for the third.
A blowout loomed when Aaron Woods crashed over soon after resumption, however Dufty kept his team in the game with a flick pass for Lomax’s second.
The comeback was on after Lomax’s next contribution, a no-look flick pass which ricocheted off a Sharks player and into the hands of Mikaele Ravalawa to score.
The Dragons then missed two looks at pinching the two points.
Matt Dufty failed to ground a Ben Hunt grubber in the 78th minute, before Jason Saab touched down on the dead-ball line on the final play of the game.
But Cronulla held on to claim their fifth win in six games to climb into the eight.
“Massive sigh of relief; that was a nervous last 10 minutes there; just so proud of the boys,” Sharks coach John Morris said.
“That was a local derby the way they were meant to be played.”