Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has vented his frustration at officialdom after late refereeing controversy reared its head again in Canberra’s 24-22 win over Storm at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
Leading 22-18 with 10 minutes remaining, Melbourne’s Sisa Waqa appeared to score the match sealer out wide, but the on-field referees Gerard Sutton and Dave Munro signalled no try, ruling the winger had been bundled into touch by Raiders centre Jarrod Croker.
Video referees Luke Phillips and Matt Rodwell upheld the decision after failing to find an angle which provided definitive reason to overturn it.
The Raiders capitalised on their slice of luck when forward Paul Vaughan stepped twice off his right foot to run 20 metres and score the match-winner with two minutes left.
It snapped a six-game losing streak at home for the Raiders [3-4] which began with a record 68-4 belting by Storm last year.
But the post-match discussion was dominated by Waqa’s no-try, with Immortal Wally Lewis labelling the decision as ‘’stunning’’ on Channel Nine’s commentary.
Two weeks ago Melbourne lost to Gold Coast through a dubious penalty, with Greg Bird slotting a late penalty goal to seal victory.
Last week referees boss Tony Archer admitted his men erred when video footage proved officials allowed Melbourne an extra tackle after the siren against the Dragons, from which Young Tonumaipea scored the match-winner.
“I think everyone’s just sick of games being decided on controversial calls, and we’ve been involved in the last three of them,’’ Bellamy said.
“I thought he got it down, but it’s just confusing and I think all fans are disillusioned at the moment.
“It’s frustrating, whether you’re a Raiders or Storm fan.’’
Bellamy believes there is too much onus on on-field officials to make a call before sending it up to the video referees.
“I reckon we’re putting too much pressure on referees or touch judges to say no try, or try,’’ he said.
“If it’s a close call and they rule no try, sometimes they can’t see any better than us but they have to make a ruling.’’
Shattered Storm skipper Cameron Smith declared it was pointless to discuss refereeing controversies, which have dogged much of the season.
“Craig and I can talk about our thoughts as much as we want, but we’ve seen over the first few weeks it doesn’t matter what the players or coaches think,’’ Smith said.
“As disappointing as that moment was, if we were fair dinkum we should have won, we didn’t play well enough.’’
After securing his first home win as Raiders coach, Ricky Stuart was happy the call had gone his team’s way.
“His first touch [when tackled] was short [of the try-line], I don’t know where his second touch went,’’ Stuart said of the Waqa no-try.
“We’ve had our fair share of 50-50 calls, we’ve seemed to be on the other side of the 50.
“I don’t know if it was a try or not.’’
The Raiders had all the momentum late, and Vaughan’s delicate footwork to run 20 metres and score beside the posts levelled the scores at 22-all.
Centre Jarrod Croker, outstanding in attack and defence, kicked the goal much to the delight of the 10,941-strong crowd.
The match was highlighted by three acts of defensive desperation by Canberra, with Croker leading the way.
Leading 16-6, Melbourne threatened to break the game wide open in the first half when Billy Slater found open space, but a desperate cover tackle from Croker forced the mistake.
Just moments before the Waqa no-try, Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii held the winger up over the line in a superb one-on-one tackle.
It was a crucial win for Canberra, whose season was almost on the line after back-to-back losses.
Melbourne suffered a setback when five-eighth Ben Roberts failed to return after leaving the field midway through the first half with a grade two medial ligament injury.
The Raiders attack looked much crisper, having been disorganised and rudderless at times early in the season.
Melbourne’s ''big three’' – Slater, Cooper Cronk and Smith – were outstanding.
Cronk threw the last pass or kick for two of Melbourne’s first two tries.
CANBERRA RAIDERS 24 (Reece Robinson 2, Matt Allwood, Paul Vaughan tries; Jarrod Croker 4 goals)
MELBOURNE STORM 22 (Mahe Fonua 2, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Sisa Waqa tries; Cameron Smith 3 goals)
at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
Referees: Gerard Sutton and Dave Munro. Crowd: 10,941