THE Warriors' coach, Brian McClennan, late last night angrily returned serve after his Sydney Roosters rival, Brian Smith, slammed the refereeing and claimed endemic flaws in the NRL had been exposed during an incident-packed Mt Smart Stadium thriller.
Smith started the news conference by saying he was ''angry and frustrated'' before going on to say the ''diabolical decisions'' of match officials Steve Lyons and Henry Perenara could have impacted on the result and there were competition-wide problems with officiating.
One of the major criticisms was replacement Boyd Cordner being reported for striking Jerome Ropati in the head, only for the Warriors fullback to go off with a knee injury that might end his season. After telling Lyons ''you referees have set a very dangerous precedent'', Roosters skipper Braith Anasta said ''I shouldn't laugh'' when recounting the incident to reporters.
''He didn't get carried off because he was concussed, he got carried off because of his knee,'' Anasta said. But that account angered McClennan, who said the head knock may have contributed to the way Ropati fell. ''The kid got whacked around the head,'' he said, ''and then he's come off with that as well as the knee injury. What's their point?''
Ropati is out for at least two months. Smith said: ''I'm told it's not a pretty look when I'm angry and frustrated so I'll choose to be very proud instead … [of] … the complete resilience they showed to fight back after some diabolical decisions. The reversed decision on the lost ball, where referee Lyons clearly indicated he thought it was a lost ball … obviously referee Perenara decided we were going the other way. That hasn't been happening in our season so far. The pocket referees have little or no input into that sort of stuff. That hurt us tonight.
''There were too many of them [decisions] to mention tonight. The way the game ran tonight was encapsulated in the last minute and a half. They didn't even know you should blow the whistle when the hooter goes. We were playing for the game and the two referees looked to me like they couldn't wait to get off the field.
''There's a whole untidiness to our game at the moment where teams are doing these sorts of things and laying down and not playing the ball and chewing the clock up. The encouragement is there in the way the refs are interpreting that. It was just ugly for the game.''
Discussing the Ropati decision, Anasta - who said a referee apologised for one gaffe near full-time - said: ''They must have watched the Bulldogs game last night and just got paranoid about the shoulder hitting the head because it was nowhere near the head.''
The lead changed five times in a game which produced some sparkling attack and a host of curve balls thrown at Lyons, Perenara and video referee Bernard Sutton - including a rare simultaneous grounding for B.J. Leilua's 21st minute try. ''They squared it up anyway,'' Anasta said.
WARRIORS 30 (K Hurrell 2 S Johnson 2 M Vatuvei tries J Maloney 5 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 26 (A Guerra J Leilua A Minichiello T Moga J Waerea-Hargreaves tries B Anasta 3 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: Steve Lyons, Henry Perenara.