Cunningham blasts match officials: Something needs to change

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham has hit out at the performance of Super League match officials, following his team’s weekend defeat at Catalans Dragons.

Saints lost the game 33-26, and Cunningham clearly felt that the match officials played a large part in his team’s defeat.

“The officials weren’t on the money again,” he said.

“You don’t expect the rub of the green or the refereeing calls at Catalans, you never get it, that’s just a fact.

“You look at every single game there, the penalty count always weighs heavily in the Catalans’ favour.

“I think Catalans gave away six penalties during the game. Three of them were for speaking back at the referee.

“So basically Catalans made three infringements in the whole game. I think that’s immense discipline from a side that didn’t seem quite that disciplined on the night.”

Some of the Catalans’ tackling was typically robust in the game, with some of the players arguably in need of a Virgin Games promo code to calm them down.

However, Cunningham insisted that his issue was not with the Dragons but with match officials.

He is keen to see more accountability brought into Super League for match officials, and stated that he had had intense discussions with RFL head of match officials Jon Sharp.

“I’m sure we gave out our fair share as well, it was quite a heated game,” Cunningham added.

“The difference is that we did it we got penalised. I’m sure the tackles look very similar when you watch them back on video.

“If you’re going to penalise one side, and the other side make an infringement, then penalise the other side too.

“Jon Sharp’s in a bit of situation.

“He keeps saying to me that he’s only got five full-time referees, and the answer that I say to Sharpy is, ‘So if one of my players picks up a player and drops him on his head, and he doesn’t play for six months, and I turn round and say to you that I’ve only got 10 full-time players, should that player not get reprimanded for his actions? Is that what you’re telling me?’

“He said no, but there has got to be accountability. Across the board there’s got to be accountability.

“If it’s Premiership football and a referee makes one bad decision in a game then he is hung out to dry. He’s accountable for his actions.

“At the minute referees are accountable for nothing, nothing whatsoever.

“In every walk of life there is accountability, and this is the only part of rugby league where nobody’s accountable.

“All you do is get pacified. You speak up and Sharpy will tell me that he’s completely wrong with all his calls, but nothing changes.

“So what do we do? Where do we go with this?

“The RFL are bragging that they’re making £1.7 million a year, so why don’t we change the course.

“I understand it’s not a short term fix, it’s something that as a league we’ve got to work towards.

“Do we need two referees on the field? It would probably help the game. But we’ve only got five full-time referees.

“So how do we get two referees? Something has got to be changed.

“There’s too many times that fans are coming away from games talking about referees, instead of about how good something Jon Wilkin or Luke Walsh did.

“It’s disappointing for the game of rugby league when that’s all we’re speaking about.”

Meanwhile, one positive to emerge from the defeat in Perpignan was the display by Adam Swift, who managed to grab four tries despite being on the losing side.

Cunningham added: “I said to Swifty after the game, ‘There won’t be many games that you score four tries in and lose.’

“I thought the back three played really well, and that Swifty had a great game, but it just wasn’t to be.

“I thought we were in control of the game for large portions. Considering the travel and everything that went with it, I thought the boys played really well.

“In the first 20 minutes we started well, then James Roby threw a ball to Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, and then we didn’t see the ball for a certain period of time.

“That gassed us in the heat a little bit.

“It was difficut towards the back end, when we got to 26-all, but if we’d have done the right things, we’d have gone on to win the game.

“We were in control completely, but we just didn’t do the right things.

“That comes down to game management, it comes down to making the right choices under the right conditions, and we were made to pay for that in the end.”

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