Bennett 'dumbfounded' by rare downtown call

2 months ago 24
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Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett says he's "dumbfounded" by a technical 'downtown' call on forward Mark Nicholls which spoiled a threatening play for South Sydney with the match still in the balance against the Panthers.

The Bunnies eventually capitulated in a 25-12 loss at Suncorp Stadium despite coming out of the gates hot with back-to-back tries to leave the 2020 grand finalists stunned.

But early in the second half with the match locked up at 12-all, a pivotal moment would soon draw widespread confusion after Nicholls was pulled up by the bunker when he recovered the ball from Stephen Crichton on a kick return.

The bunker had found Nicholls in breach of a 'downtown' offside - a scenario in which players who are in front of the kicker can not advance past the point of the previous play-the-ball until the ball has passed the offside players.

Bennett baffled by downtown call. (Nine)

The rare stipulation left Bennett baffled at full-time, ruing what might have been had the bizarre ruling not reared its head.

"I'm a little bit dumbfounded by that one," Bennett told reporters at his post-match press conference.

"It might have been, but as Mark said he's done it all his career. So many others have. So, I just don't know where it's come from.

"No one has any idea in that changeroom. No one could believe it. So many of them are all guilty of it. It was a big moment in the game, there's no doubt about that."

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NRL guru Phil Gould was equally bemused by the bunker's interference.

"Mate, don't start me. By the letter of the law, maybe. But you see that happen a thousand times. Crichton will run 20 metres with the ball, he's way outside 10 metres," Gould told Nine's Friday Night Footy post-match coverage.

"I think it's a really technical penalty at that stage of the game that really didn't need to be blown, but the bunker interfered. Eye in the sky, got ya. Like a highway patrol with a speed gun. It was an unnecessary technical penalty. Unnecessary for the penalty to be blown."

That was a sentiment echoed by Sharks legend Paul Gallen.

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"It was a tough call for the South Sydney side," he said.

"Technically, it's a penalty but I do feel a bit sorry for them. I always thought downtown you had to be in front of the play the ball before the ball was passed out of dummy half. It is a tough one, a technical penalty. You can't say it was match-defining, but it was tough."

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