St George Illawarra 14 Parramatta 12
St George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels at WIN Jubilee
St George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels at WIN Jubilee Stadium. Photos by Anthony Johnson. Selected Images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com. Follow us at http://twitter.com/photosSMH Photo: Anthony Johnson
Another game, another refereeing controversy.
Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney believes his side was denied a last-minute penalty which would have forced St George Illawarra into an unprecedented third-straight golden-point thriller.
Just three days after the most contentious officiating decision in State of Origin history, the referees were again in the spotlight at last night's thriller at WIN Jubilee Oval.
For 77 minutes, the Eels led a contest between two desperate and out-of-form teams. But just as it appeared they'd sing the team song for just the second time all season, they found a new and exciting way to lose.
Having defended stoutly for the majority of the contest, St George Illawarra centre Kyle Stanley crossed for what proved to be the decisive try.
With the clock ticking down, the Eels had a final shot to steal it. Jarryd Hayne put up a Hail Mary bomb but Daniel Vidot defused it. It seemed Stanley would go from hero to zero when he interfered with opposing centre Ryan Morgan.
However, referees Jared Maxwell and Tony De Las Heras did not award a penalty which would have given Luke Burt a relatively easy kick at goal to level the scores.
Dragons fans, having endured consecutive golden-point matches, were spared cardiac arrest.
''I definitely got checked,'' Morgan said. ''I'd have to look at the video to see where he came from.''
Asked if he was confident of getting to the ball, he replied: ''Oh yeah, I was definitely going for it, I had eyes for it but I got checked.''
Kearney, when asked if his player might have been taken out illegally, replied: ''Might have?''
''He was definitely taken out,'' he said. ''But it's pretty tough for a ref to give a penalty in that situation. But I'm sure if it was in the 32nd minute it was going to be a penalty.''
Pressed, he offered: ''I'm looking at it and I'm thinking it's certainly a penalty. But again, I'm not blaming the ref and that's not an excuse for the result tonight.''
But it was more pain for Parra. Casey McGuire might have played the last game of his career after being rushed to hospital with a suspected torn pectoral muscle. The 32-year-old playmaker is off contract at the end of the season. Forward Matt Ryan also failed to finish the game.
Once again, the Eels had found a new and exciting way to lose.
''Story of our year, isn't it?'' said Kearney. ''It was very disappointing for the lads out there to not get rewarded for what I thought was a tremendous effort.
''But it's the harsh realities of our game that you have to go until it finishes. It's probably that last little bit there where we gave them an opportunity and couldn't quite finish it off, which was a real shame for us.''
His Dragons counterpart, Steve Price, and the team's skipper, Ben Hornby, claimed they were too focused watching Vidot's bomb being defused to get a read on the incident.
Parramatta's recent woes were given some perspective. Reni Maitua was set to return from suspension, but pulled out after his brother's wife was diagnosed with cancer. It's another personal ordeal for the former Kangaroo after his father underwent heart surgery last week.
The Dragons had not won a game since losing Beau Scott in the Anzac Day miracle. The NSW back-rower returned last night and the Dragons won. Obviously no coincidence.
The result snaps a three-game losing streak.
''Sometimes you've got to win ugly to win the two points,'' Price said.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 14 (K Stanley 2 B Morris tries J Soward goal) bt PARRAMATTA 12 (C McGuire M Ryan tries L Burt 2 goals) at WIN Jubilee Oval. Referee: Jared Maxwell, Tony De Las Heras. Crowd: 12,756.