Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah and Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen have both played down an incident in which Sharks second-rower Wade Graham accused Tigers winger David Nofoaluma of biting in his side's 22-20 win at Remondis Stadium on Saturday night.
The incident occurred midway through the first half when Graham was penalised for pushing Nofoaluma in the face but then complained to referee Gavin Morris that he had been bitten by the Tigers’ winger.
Afterwards, Farah said he had been assured by his teammate that nothing malicious had occurred.
“Wado was saying he got bit, but I asked Dave and he said he didn’t – he was wearing a mouthguard so nothing in it as far as I’m concerned,” Farah said.
Gallen, despondent after the narrow loss, dismissed the incident, too.
“Nothing happened,” he said. “Wade didn’t make a complaint so nothing in it as far as I’m concerned. I thought the penalty was a bit tough – a tap on the head. It’s footy, so it probably shouldn’t have been a penalty.”
Nofoaluma explained the contact was accidental.
“I remember running and as I made contact with him my mouth happened to be open and as I came down I didn’t clench or anything,” he said. “What he thought, I have no idea.”
The Sharks were bitten in another way, however, after turning a 10-8 half-time deficit into a 20-10 lead with two quick tries after the break, only to concede back-to-back tries themselves, costing them the match in front of 15,869 fans.
With State of Origin looming large, Farah showed he had lost little of his touch after a month out injured, playing a leader’s role and complementing red-hot halfback Luke Brooks, who threw the last ball in three of the Tigers’ four tries.
“The lungs are probably a bit worse than the elbow to be honest,” the hooker said when asked how he pulled up.
“But it’s good to get a run under the belt after a few weeks out. It was always going to take me a while to warm into the game but I got through with no dramas.
“Having been out for four or five weeks, you can train all you want, and the medical staff kept me pretty fit, but there’s nothing like playing a game.”
Tigers coach Mick Potter said he was pleased the side fought back after lapses had seen them fall behind.
“It is satisfying for the players to show their grit,” he said. “Other teams might panic, but I thought our players kept their composure.”
Apart from Farah, another notable return to action was made by Todd Carney, who played a subdued role for the Sharks but got through his first appearance since injuring a hamstring in round six. It wasn’t enough, however, leaving coach Peter Sharp upset.
“It’s always disappointing [to lose] but it’s pretty tough to take, leading by 10 with not too long to go,” he said.
“But, again, the same old story – they’re trying their socks off, trying really hard, but just things aren’t happening and they're making errors at vital times.”
Sharp said simply that defensive errors had cost the team dearly.
“You can’t dress it up any better than that … we need to do better,” he said.