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Sport ‘Is the bunker reffing the game now?': Bennett blows stack after Souths win

15:40  15 may  2021
15:40  15 may  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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Wayne Bennett © Getty Wayne Bennett

Wayne Bennett said the NRL risked being a major turn-off for fans if it kept rewinding play to crack down on acts of foul play, questioning whether the bunker was actually refereeing matches these days.

On the same night he became the highest-profile advocate of Peter V'landys' crackdown on contact with the head or neck, the South Sydney supercoach gave the NRL a slap as well as a tickle in a tirade at increasing stoppages.

Ironically, his comments came after the Rabbitohs survived a huge scare from the struggling Sharks when the bunker harshly adjudged Chad Townsend to have committed a crusher tackle on Cody Walker with seven minutes left of their Magic Round match on Saturday night.

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Having clawed a 20-point deficit back to four, Cronulla surrendered a try on the next set, Walker's second for the night, to take the steam out of a stirring fightback. Referee Chris Sutton took play back two tackles after a tip-off from the bunker, which appeared an overreaction that infuriated Cronulla skipper Wade Graham.

But Bennett was equally annoyed on a night when his South Sydney side celebrated Adam Reynolds' return with an unconvincing 32-22 win at Suncorp Stadium.

Asked about the officiating, Bennett said: "I'm a bit worried about it. I'm getting confused. We talk about a fast, open game and that's not what we're doing.

"I'm not supportive of the game going on for a minute after it and then we all stop the whole game, go through the video and put someone on report and blow a penalty. You've got to understand the game relies on momentum. For the game to be attractive, it needs to have momentum in it. If the ref doesn't see it, then let's get on with it.

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"Who's reffing the game now? Is it the bunker? The bunker is there for support of the referees. If the referee doesn't see it, they can pick it up tomorrow and charge the player tomorrow. They've got all those rights.

"We're not going to have a fast and free-flowing game if we miss the moment, let another four or five tackles go and then walk back to the mark. We're not going to have the game we want to entertain the fans. What works for you today will work against you tomorrow. That could be us [on the receiving end] tomorrow."

Cronulla's caretaker coach Josh Hannay described the Townsend penalty as "soft" as the Sharks plunged to their sixth straight loss.

It was the turning point of a bizarre match that threw another spanner in Paul Green's Queensland State of Origin preparations with Rabbitohs guns Jaydn Su'A and Dana Gagai both placed on report. Su'A was sin-binned for a high shot on Aaron Woods and Gagai was booked for an alleged second-half crusher tackle.

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Despite having only been beaten by the Storm this year, the Rabbitohs don't look anywhere near the finished article as they scrambled to another win without Latrell Mitchell, Cameron Murray, Campbell Graham and Josh Mansour despite Reynolds' return.

Mitchell will return from a four-week suspension next week for the heavyweight clash against Penrith in Dubbo.

Bennett said he had no complaints about Su'A's sin-binning and backed V'landys' crusade on stamping out any contact with the head or neck despite complaints from several rival coaches such as Canberra's Ricky Stuart and Canterbury's Trent Barrett, who both said minor accidents were bound to happen.

"Why is it acceptable in our game to hit blokes in the head when I've just talked about two other codes [AFL and rugby union] that won't accept it?" Bennett said. "Are we right and they're all wrong? I don't think so."

While the Brisbane crowd cheered the new heir to the Broncos throne, Benji Marshall gave the men who let Reynolds walk some more food for thought. He may be the oldest player in the competition by two years, but Marshall is a man inspired at the moment.

In the first half, he skipped across the field to the left, his eyes looking elsewhere all the while, to set up Keaon Koloamatangi and Alex Johnston for tries as the Rabbitohs raced to a 20-point lead before the half-hour mark before the Sharks finally stirred in Andrew Fifita's first NRL match of the season.

"They showed a pulse in that second half," Hannay said. "That's what we just spoke about. It's probably the best half of footy we played for a few weeks."

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 32 (Cody Walker 2, Keaon Koloamatangi, Alex Johnston, Jai Arrow tries; Adam Reynolds 5 goals) defeated CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS 22 (Will Kennedy, Aaron Woods, Briton Nikora, Mawene Hiroti tries; Chad Townsend 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Chris Sutton.

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