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Ben Cummins apology to Matt Gillett for wrong call overshadows Broncos' crucial victory

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Dragons comeback falls short in dramatic finale

Despite a wrongful sin binning, the Broncos held on to win a thriller in front of a bumper crowd at Suncorp Stadium.

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Brisbane second-rower Matt Gillett said referee Ben Cummins apologised for mistakenly sending him to the sin bin at a crucial stage of the sudden death match with St George Illawarra.

With Brisbane leading 24-4 with 25 to go at Suncorp Stadium, the odds of a refereeing decision influencing the clash looked rather long.

Still in the Hunt: The efforts of Broncos No.7 Ben Hunt ensured Brisbane remain in contention for a place in the finals.

Still in the Hunt: The efforts of Broncos No.7 Ben Hunt ensured Brisbane remain in contention for a place in the finals. Photo: Getty Images

Time
80.00
Team
BRI
Score
30
Team
STG
Score
22
Brisbane versus St George Illawarra
View Match Statistics
Players Hunt(2), Gillett(2), Vidot Tries 5 Tries 4 Players Nightingale, Dugan, Thompson, Mata'utia
Players Parker 5/5 (100%) Conversions 5 Conversions 3 Players Widdop 3/4 (75%)
Players Penalty goals 0 Penalty goals 0 Players
Players Field goals 0 Field goals 0 Players

But never underestimate rugby league's capacity to conjure controversy from thin air.

After a 40-metre Dragons break, Gillett was bizarrely sent to the sin bin for making a tackle from an offside position.

"How? How? How?" centre Jack Reed stormed when referee Ben Cummins made the decision. After such a long incursion, sin't every defender onside?

Staying alive: The Broncos celebrate a crucial - if controversial - victory.

Staying alive: The Broncos celebrate a crucial - if controversial - victory. Photo: Getty Images

Gillett later told Channel Nine: "When I came back on, the ref said sorry to me so he obviously didn't know what happened."

Brisbane, like their opponents playing to stay alive in the finals race, were reduced to 12 men.

When St George Illawarra's Josh Dugan claimed a try from the ensuing penalty, there appeared to be a knock-on in the lead-up. The on-field officials recommended a no-try ruling.

But high upstairs, Steve Clark and Luke Patten ruled that the ball had come off Jason Nightingale's stomach. "Try" was flashed up on the big screen, then jeers from the bulk of the 36,720 crowd.

From there, Murphy's Law was strictly enforced on the match officials. Joel Thompson, the joint venture's second-rower, raced 30 metres like a winger to narrow the margin to eight.

Benji Marshall chipped and regathered, Gerard Beale kept the ball alive, Thompson put Peter Matautia over and Gareth Widdop goaled from the sideline for 24-22 to Brisbane.

But Murphy's Law eventually, mercifully, gave way to poetic justice.

Gillett, who had returned to the field just before the Matautia try, crashed over and Corey Parker restored an eight-point margin. The coach without a job next year, Anthony Griffin, is still in the race for the finals at the expense of the man with a new three-year contract, the Dragons' Paul McGregor.

Brisbane centre Justin Hodges went down injured after four minutes. By half-time, St George Illawarra were left wishing he had stayed down.

The opening try of the match was the first of two magnificent individual efforts from halfback Ben Hunt. The in-form No.7 threw a dummy and dashed over from close range, Parker converting for 6-0.

St George Illawarra were initially up to the task in a sprawling contest, Leeson Ah Mau making a searching break in midfield and Brett Morris kicking ahead.

The ball was knocked down by a defender, the Dragons were awarded a scrum-feed and Nightingale expertly fielded Marshall's crossfield kick to dot down for an unconverted 15th-minute score.

Winger Morris complained he had been tackled in the air when Brisbane forced a 23rd-minute line-dropout. Referee  Cummins explained that once the ball bounces, he becomes fair game.

And from that dropout, Hunt threw another dummy, kicked clear of despairing defence and cover defence, and scored his side's second try. Parker made it 12-4.

Hodges' trademark flat pass put Gillett over in the 28th minute, with Parker ticking over the scoreboard to 18-4.

And just short of the break, the illustrious Hunt plucked the ball from dummy half in the south-western corner, summed up the numbers on the short-side, and sent a pin-point cutout pass to winger Daniel Vidot, who crashed over.

Parker was on-target to bring up the halftime score of 24-4 at the end of an opening half that was the antithesis of wrestle-happy 2014 NRL football.

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