27 Sep 2010

NRL judiciary defends referees

5:41 am on 27 September 2010

The NRL rugby league match review chairman Greg McCullum has defended the crucial refereeing decision not to penalise Jeremy Smith in Saturday night's preliminary final despite slapping the St George Illawarra lock with a kneeing charge.

Smith was hit with a grade one dangerous contact charge following a 73rd minute incident in the Dragons 13-12 win which left Wests Tigers winger Lote Tuqiri with suspected broken ribs.

The charge won't stop Smith from playing in Sunday's NRL grand final provided he takes the early guilty plea, the same scenario facing Sydney Roosters five-eighth Todd Carney after he was handed a careless high tackle charge for his hit on Gold Coast skipper Scott Prince.

But the Smith no-penalty ruling by on-field officials Ben Cummins and Shayne Hayne - as well as video referee Steve Clark who had ample opportunity to review the incident as Tuqiri sought treatment - left Tigers officials privately incensed.

The game was tied at 12-all when Smith got Tuqiri late, and while it would have been a tough attempt, was within range for Tigers goalkicker Benji Marshall for what could have been a match-winning lead.

As it was Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward snapped a field goal to give the minor premiers their first lead of the night just a minute later, but McCullum - himself a former top grade referee - refused to be critical of the whistleblowers.