NRL 2019: Official mistakes mar Warriors win over Newcastle Knights

They may have snuck away with the win, but if the NZ Warriors had fallen to the Newcastle Knights, they would have plenty to complain about.

The Auckland-based NRL side barely hung on to beat the Origin-depleted home side 24-20 in Newcastle on Saturday, needing a converted Sam Lisone try in the dying moments to seal the result.

But NRL head of football Graham Annesley has confirmed what diehard Warriors fans already knew - they got the raw end of at least three officials' decisions that either led to Knights tries or wrongly disallowed a Warriors try.

After 27 minutes, Knights half Mason Lino lost the ball in a tackle on attack, but the referees ruled he had been stripped and signalled the start of a new set. When Newcastle spun the ball wide, Sione Mata'uita scored a try that was also converted for an 8-2 lead.

"In our view, that's a loose carry," said Annesley, during his weekly briefing. "It's not a strip, there was no deliberate attempt to strip the ball.

"It was the fifth tackle, he was trying to get ready to release the ball - it should have been a knock-on, not six again."

Later in the game, Warriors wing Ken Maumalo seemed to have crossed in the corner for his third try of the game and the referee referred the decision to the video 'bunker' as an on-field try.

But the video referees overturned that recommendation, conclusing Maumalo had lost control of the ball before he could ground it. 

"That's the front-on angle, you can see the fingers on the ball... the fingers are spread on the ball," explained Annesley. "I think, post-match, in anyone's view of that, it's a try.

"There's an angle taken from further infield, looking back. Admittedly, it's not as clear, but it's irrelevant - this angle, which was the first angle the video referee looked at, clarifies that this was a try."  

Moments later, Newcastle took the lead, when Mata'utia scored his second try at the end of a length-of-the field movement, as Warriors centre Peta Hiku lay on the ground with an obvious head injury.

"The referees should have stopped the game when they say that," said Annesley. "This is a clear case of a potential head injury, the referees were in a position to see it.

"We had an incident earlier in the season, where something similar happened and the game wasn't stopped. It was made very clear to the referees that when they see these head knocks and the indictors of a player being unsteady on his feet, they have a responsibility to stop the game." 

Afterwards, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney was bemused by the decisions and relieved that they didn't cost his team victory.

"I've given up trying to give my view on it, because at the end of the day, they're pushing the button," he said.

"There's not point pointing the finger and blaming... we're all there, we saw it. I'm just happy that it didn't come down to that to decide the game."

This wasn't the first time the Warriors have been on the wrong end of officialing blunders. In April, they led Melbourne Storm 12-10 in the dying moments, when ref Matt Cecchin penalised tacklers in a play-the-ball and Storm Cameron Smith kicked the goal to tie the game.

Storm half Brodie Croft ultimately kicked a drop goal in extra time for victory, but Annesley later ruled Cecchin's call was wrong, and the Warriors should have received the ball and a chance to clear


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