In a thrilling encounter on Thursday night at 4 Pines Park, the Penrith Panthers inched closer to ensuring their third minor premiership in the last four years, securing a 24-12 victory against the Manly Sea Eagles. Although, a controversial decision by referee Gerard Sutton during the first half of the game, which yielded a try for the Panthers, has put NRL supporters in a fuming state.
In an attempt to keep their chances for the finals alive, the Sea Eagles, currently in 11th spot with 25 points on the NRL ladder, found themselves headed for a halftime draw at 12-all after the contentious call, crushing their hopes for a win.
An enormous bomb was put up towards Sea Eagle, Raymond Tuaimalo Vaega‘s wing, by Nathan Cleary, during an assault on the Manly line. The bomb was pursued by Liam Martin, Penrith’s representative forward for NSW Origin, who bumped the ball into his rival winger but managed to recapture it.
Even with a hand on him while sprawled on the ground, Martin executed a pass. Consequently, referee Sutton decided it was six again. This led to the ball in Nathan Cleary‘s possession.
Stephen Crichton was then presented with the ball as the Panthers swiftly spread it wide, enabling him to secure his second try for the evening. In quick retaliation, the commentators vocally pointed out that Martin seemed to have bobbled the ball into Vaega.
Ennis then voiced his opinion, emphatically suggesting that Liam Martin had clearly lost the ball into Vaega and everyone had halted before Sutton announced ‘six to go’, although Cleary had already made an attempt to kick. This led to a possible breakdown in play.
Adding fuel to the fire of controversy were conjectures that Cleary, too, had knocked on, but the contention lay around him possibly kicking it before he regained control.
According to Cooper Cronk, this occurrence was a significant turning point in the game as the momentum was leaning towards Manly prior to the event. Meanwhile, questions regarding Martin knocking on and whether he was tackled were raised by Billy Slater, with Andrew Johns affirming in the background, “He is tackled.”
Amidst a social media outcry following the contentious decision by the referee, the complaints swell from fans watching replays of the game, causing the verdict to further come under the public’s scrutiny.
Heading into the game, the Fox Sports panel had advised that 32 points would be the threshold required for teams to make it into the finals. Unfortunately for the Sea Eagles, even with three matches left to go, they can only reach a maximum of 31 points. Their prospects of making it to the finals now seem to lie on their anticipated wins against the Warriors in New Zealand, the Bulldogs, and Tigers, with some favourable results along the way.
On the other hand, the Penrith Panthers are closing in on their third minor premiership within four years, with only the Brisbane Broncos seeming to stand in their way for the coveted JJ Giltinan Shield.