Rugby League

Knights 10 Bulldogs 26
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Furious Hasler takes aim at referees

IT WASN'T just Des Hasler's players who made a statement last night in their dominant 26-10 win over the Knights but the Bulldogs coach himself, launching a scathing attack on the NRL's refereeing standard.


In an outburst that is sure to come under review by the ARL Commission, Hasler blasted the performances of referees Jason Robinson and Brett Suttor and questioned the suitability of the pair's in-match conversations.

''I can tell you what I wasn't impressed with,'' Hasler opened the post-match press conference. ''I wasn't impressed with the two blokes in the pink shirts. There's not much we don't monitor or miss out on. We had the rabbits' ears working on the referees and the thing I couldn't understand toward the back end of the first half is the referees were talking, saying, 'This game is going to change, this game is going to change, this game is going to change.'

''And the next time, we get a run of penalties - four penalties against us. The penalty just before half-time, for the strip, clearly shows they are out of touch. I just can't understand that conversation. Why pre-empt it?''

The two-time premiership-winning coach then banned captain Michael Ennis from making any further comment, going on to lament the treatment of his skipper by Robinson and Suttor.


''Little or no respect was afforded to our captain out there,'' Hasler said. ''They did not listen to him. They didn't listen to his counsel or anything like that, and Mick is not going to comment on that. The club has made a statement and we'll leave it at that.''

But he wasn't finished there. The rest of the NRL's referees weren't saved from condemnation, Hasler revealing he has been in talks with referee boss Bill Harrigan.

''We are sitting in the top four but we are the most penalised side in the competition,'' he said. ''And I don't think we're playing that ill-disciplined football to have that against us. I've alluded Bill to it but obviously I'll have to take a trip out there.

''I thought both referees tonight were very poor - very poor. And we need to help them. We need to do something about the standard of refereeing.''

Coincidentally, Hasler's Dogs put on a defensive display for the ages in the second half and crafted a sensational opening 20 minutes that saw the visitors post four unanswered tries. It was magical football and enough for Knights skipper Danny Buderus to publicly declare the Bulldogs the NRL benchmark.

Veteran coach Wayne Bennett didn't disagree but suggested Hasler's outburst was an intentional distraction to spare his side from media hype following the Bulldogs' 10th consecutive win. ''I'm not worried about the referees, his team is going so good, that's all he's got to worry about,'' Bennett said with his trademark wry grin. ''The referee attack tonight was to stop you talking about his team because he knows they read the papers, too. From his point of view, I don't think he's getting carried away with all that [benchmark] stuff.''

It took 40 minutes for the Knights to cross for their first try, courtesy of Akuila Uate, but it only took one minute and 45 seconds for the Bulldogs to post first points through Joel Romelo. In a devastating sign of what was to come, the Dogs sent the ball wide and to the right before Perrett put in a pinpoint accurate in-field kick for Romelo to latch on to.

Krisnan Inu converted the extras to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead and a sniff of their 10th straight victory. And if the first try was a shock for the Knights then the second was plain embarrassing, Uate failing to ground the ball in-goal only for Bulldogs winger Jonathan Wright to get a limp wrist to the Steeden and be awarded a benefit-of-the-doubt four-pointer.

Again, the try came from a kick - this time Ben Barba - making it the Dogs' 26th try from a kick this season.

The Knights had won their past four matches against the Dogs but in front of a packed home crowd, almost 30,000, they looked anything but the top-eight side they were hoping to become by beating Hasler's men.

At just the 11th minute, the Knights' premiership hopes were put on life support when Wright crossed for his second and at the 16th the power was officially switched off, Josh Reynolds scoring the Bulldogs' fourth and put the result beyond doubt with more than three quarters of the match still to be played.

BULLDOGS 26 (J Wright 2 J Reynolds J Romelo tries K Inu 5 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 10 (A Uate 2 tries T Roberts goal) at Hunter Stadium. Referee: Jason Robinson, Brett Suttor. Crowd: 29,482.