John I Dent Cup: Gungahlin v Royals
Gungahlin take on the Royals in the John I Dent Cup at Nicholls Oval. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Gungahlin Eagles coach Owen Finegan has called for more consistency from referees after a spiteful 29-20 loss to the Canberra Royals at Nicholls Oval on Saturday.
The Eagles led 13-8 early in the second half before the Royals piled on three unanswered tries to grab a vital John I Dent Cup victory away from home.
The turning point came midway through the second half when Eagles winger Eremasi Kelei was upended in a tackle after a kick return and was helped from the field.
No action was taken by the referee, with Royals winger Jason Swain scoring a few minutes later.
Tensions boiled over near the end of the game as players from the opposing sides squared off, while Finegan spoke to referee Sarah Corrigan after full-time.
"The 30 players on the field were competitive and the refereeing was inconsistent for both teams,'' Finegan said.
"When you see your players come off with concussion from lifting tackles and nothing is done, it's disappointing.
''I wouldn't say the refereeing caused us to lose it, [but] when you come out to play you want it to be a fair and decent game.''
Royals outside centre Eddie Lagalli was given a yellow card and spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin in the first half for a lifting tackle.
''It's just frustrating for the players because you see it all blowing up,'' Finegan said.
''It was fiery and brutal, and that stuff has to get stamped out.
''You wonder how three adjudicators could miss it.''
Royals coach Russell Ingram played a straight bat to the decisions regarding the lifting tackles in a game that took on a finals-like atmosphere.
"Both sides brought out their A-game,'' Ingram said. ''There were some fairly big whacks and the intensity was pretty full on from both sides..
''To come out here and win was a really good effort.
''The boys stuck to their structures really well and executed when we had to.''
The bonus-point victory lifts Royals to 19 points on the table, just one point behind the third-placed Eagles.
A try to Royals blindside flanker Sokai Tai just before half-time levelled the scores at 8-all at the break.
The Eagles regained their five-point margin early in the second half before Royals scored 21 unanswered points.
Eagles No.8 Rutikha Ilolhia crossed for his third try of the afternoon to bring the gap back to nine points, but Royals were able to hang on.
The Tuggeranong Vikings, which had the bye, remain on top of the table on 28 points ahead of the Queanbeyan Whites (24), which beat Wests 29-17 at Campese Oval.
In the weekend's other game, Uni-Norths won its second match of the season, holding out Easts 31-28 at Griffith Oval.
John I Dent Cup: Uni-Norths bt Easts 31-28 at Griffith Oval. Royals bt Gungahlin 29-20 at Nicholls Oval. Queanbeyan bt Wests 29-17 at Campese Oval.