Stephen Kearney frustrated with controversial decisions in loss to Sharks

NZ Herald Staff,
Publish Date
Saturday, 30 June 2018, 8:53AM
Simon Mannering. Photo/ Photosport
Simon Mannering. Photo/ Photosport

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney was left exasperated after a number of controversial refereeing decisions and the toll of the Denver test proved costly in last night's 18-15 NRL loss to Cronulla.

The Warriors were cruelly denied a one-point win when referee Adam Gee and touch judge Tim Roby missed what appeared to be an obvious forward pass that put Sharks left wing Edrick Lee in for the match-winning try in the 77th minute.

Kearney believed the pass was forward but felt it was futile in saying so, while admitting his side were guilty of committing unforced errors at key stages of the match.

"The forward pass, I mean, that's my opinion, but my opinion doesn't really count, it's the person on the sideline who's right next to it," said Kearney.

"But we had moments to win the game and we weren't good enough to do that at certain stages.

"They are lessons for us against a hardened footy side that know what it's all about and we just didn't quite nail those moments."

The decision was one of several baffling calls among a lopsided 10-5 penalty count against the Warriors, including a no-advantage ruling that gave the Sharks an attacking scrum in the lead-up to Lee running in the first of his two four-pointers in the 23rd minute.

James Gavet of the Warriors. Photo / Photosport
James Gavet of the Warriors. Photo / Photosport

Kearney was at a loss to understand why the advantage had stayed with the Sharks due to a Warriors' hand touching the ball, when Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend went on to run 11 metres before desperate defence saw him bundled into touch and unable to ground the ball ingoal.

"If [Townsend] scores the try the advantage is played but he doesn't score yet they still get the ball back," said Kearney.

"That's the advantage - he's run up to the line but didn't get the ball down."

Kearney's frustrations grew after the break when Warriors prop Chris Satae was penalised for an incorrect play the ball, despite being pulled down a second time by Cronulla captain Paul Gallen.

The call should have favoured the home side but instead the Sharks worked downfield and soon after claimed the lead for the first time with Townsend's second penalty goal in the 56th minute.

That decision appeared to be a get-square after Gallen had complained long and loud to the referee moments earlier, after debutant Sharks front-rower Aaron Woods was pinged for playing the ball before the tackle was completed.

"Someone will have to explain that rule to me again because I'm watching it and I'm thinking he got to his feet," said Kearney.

"He played the ball and then got his leg pulled. That's the way I saw it, you guys might have to correct me on that.

"But that aside there were moments where we needed to be better and we weren't and that's the lesson that we can take from the match tonight."

The frustrating defeat came after the Warriors endured a disjointed preparation due to the flight delays that saw the club's three Kiwi internationals return home late after last Sunday's test loss to England in Denver.

Kearney struggled to mask his annoyance after having to ask hooker Issac Luke and centre Peta Hiku to back up and play the full 80 minutes, while echoing the frustrations of rival coaches Craig Bellamy, Paul McGregor, Trent Barrett, and Trent Robinson over the poor timing of the mid-season test.

"[Luke] was fantastic. I think I made it pretty clear that the stress that we've put those guys under off the back of rep footy last week [is unreasonable].

"I wasn't planning on playing Pet tonight but we lost [David Fusitu'a] yesterday at training. He just didn't pull up quite right.

"It's not ideal. To have (them) go through what they've gone through. We've got a stadium full of people that we're trying to look after too. So we try and do the right thing by the team and by them. Anyway, that's another one we'll have to work through."

Meanwhile, Warriors forwards Bunty Afoa (dislocated elbow) and Tohu Harris (medial knee ligament) will have scans in the coming days after injuries forced them from the field.

Their defeat to the Sharks saw the Warriors drop down to fifth spot on the premiership ladder ahead of next Friday's away game against Penrith.

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