Rugby league fans have taken to social media in droves after a bizarre incident between the NRL Bunker and the referee in Penrith's 15-4 win over Brisbane on Thursday night. Nathan Cleary became the youngest player to notch 1300 points in the NRL as the Panthers halfback helped his side record a third straight victory.
The win took the two-time defending premiers to the top of the table, with the only sour note being Jarome Luai's contact with touch judge Chris Sutton, which could come under further scrutiny. It was by no means the only incident of note involving the officials at Suncorp Stadium, with referee Adam Gee caught up in a strange moment with Bunker official Ashley Klein in the second half.
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Klein cleared contact by Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh on Penrith centre Tyrone Peachey, over what would have been a try to Kotoni Staggs from a towering kick. Replays showed Walsh was looking at Peachey the whole time as he ran towards the Penrith player and only turned to try and catch the footy after jumping into his opponent.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) May 18, 2023
Gee had initially ruled it a no-try and despite Klein clearing it in the Bunker, the whistleblower could be heard saying, "It doesn't look right to me Ash," as he watched the replays again on the big screen. Klein looked at it again and ruled Walsh had illegally contacted Peachey, meaning the correct call was eventually made, despite the Bunker having to be overruled to get there.
Broncos coach Walters admitted he was left a little perplexed by the incident and thought his side was denied a legitimate four-pointer. "I thought it was a try - you win some and you lose some" Walters said. "We are not having a lot of joy with some decisions at the moment."
Viewers also found the incident baffling, considering it had been sent up to the Bunker for examination. Many fans questioned what the point of the video official is if the on-field referees can just overrule them, while others praised Gee for correcting what many described as being another howler from the Bunker.
The ref just overruled the bunker. Absolutely love it. Give Origin to Adam Gee #NRLBroncosPanthers
— Martin Gabor (@MartinJGabor) May 18, 2023
lol the referee overuling the bunker and applying common sense.
Right call made in the end, but how embarrassing is it for the bunker who should have recognised this in the first place?
— Didier (@desiderious) May 18, 2023
— John B Sheffield (@jaybs) May 18, 2023
Now we have the on field ref overruling the bunker
Why do we even have the bunker?
— Brent - FM1717 (@FM171711) May 18, 2023
The bunker literally said that walsh had eyes for the ball....wow. on field ref has just over ruled the bunker. Is it Klein up there??? Right decision made in the end. #NRLBroncosPanthers
— Chuck Oblivion (@ryantjansen) May 18, 2023
Adam Gee take a bow. Refs call over bunker. Give him a payrise @NRL
— ArnoldJ (@ArnoldRimmer1) May 18, 2023
BAHAHAHA When the ref has to do the Bunkers job #NRLBroncosPanthers
This Bunker is definitely having the weekend off next week.
— William Tupou (@coconutgeek) May 18, 2023
Wow that is so good from the ref telling the Bunker to open his god damn eyes. Love it
— Matt Buxton (@mattbuxton22) May 18, 2023
Brisbane struggle without Adam Reynolds
The Broncos were playing without injured captain Adam Reynolds and the veteran's absence was telling, as Brisbane's kicking game and last-tackle plays suffered accordingly. Jock Madden had a solid match as veteran half's replacement but Cleary's class for the visitors proved a major difference.
Cleary controlled the game and scored a crucial second-half try when he dummied and went himself at Suncorp Stadium in front of 33,343 fans. That try saw him reach the 1300-point milestone at 25 years and 185 days, eclipsing the previous best of Manly legend Graham Eadie, who reached the mark at the age of 25 years and 246 days in 1979.
The Panthers are now on 16 points and equal with the Broncos and South Sydney, but with a superior for and against. The Rabbitohs have the chance to take the outright lead when they host Parramatta on Friday night.
The Broncos' scrambling defence was on song in the first half as the Panthers had three tries disallowed. One was the result of a desperate tackle by Broncos second-rower Kurt Capewell on Moses Leota when he jolted the ball free when the Panthers prop was over the line.
A bellringer by Panthers centre Stephen Crichton on Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam rocked the stadium. It was typical of the relentless Panthers defence that shut the Broncos out.
Since the loss to the Wests Tigers a month ago the Panthers have hit top gear with wins over the Warriors, Roosters and Broncos. "I thought we responded really well (to the Tigers loss)…and we've beaten some really good teams," coach Ivan Cleary said.
Crichton enhanced his chances of being retained by NSW for the State of Origin series while fullback Dylan Edwards edged closer to a Blues debut after another fantastic performance that included a whopping 275 run metres and 12 tackle busts. Panthers prop James Fisher-Harris was put on report for a dangerous tackle on Staggs in the only other blight on an impressive win.
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