Sky Sports’ pundits, along with everyone watching the game in person and at home, were left baffled by the match officials’ decision not to award a Leigh Leopards try in their narrow 10-6 defeat to Wigan Warriors.
Oliver Gildart crossed the whitewash midway through the second half at the Leigh Sports Village, but amidst protests from Bevan French and his Warriors teammates, on-field referee Liam Moore sent the four-pointer upstairs as a ‘no try’ for obstruction.
There was minimal contact from Leopards ace Ben Nakubuwai with a Wigan defender, and any contact that was there looked to be both brought about by the Warriors man and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Video referee Marcus Griffiths appeared to agree with that verdict, but stated he couldn’t find sufficient evidence to overturn the on-field decision due to camera angles, denying the hosts what – to the eyes of most – should have been a 10-10 scoreline with a kick to come and the momentum in their favour.
The result at the Leigh Sports Village on the final night of the regular Super League season had a big impact on the table with Wigan holding on to lift the League Leaders’ Shield. Had they been beaten, they could have finished outside the top two altogether.
Leigh meanwhile dropped to 5th on points difference and will have to travel to Hull KR in next week’s ‘eliminator’ play-off tie, rather than having the home advantage themselves. Victory for Adrian Lam’s side tonight would have made KR’s 56-12 win at already relegated Wakefield Trinity futile.
Sky Sports pundits in disbelief over disallowed Leigh Leopards try
Sky Sports had the trio of Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Barrie McDermott and Phil Clarke on-site at the LSV. The latter pair both hold ties to Wigan from their own playing days, but had no defence for the officials’ verdict on the disallowed effort.
McDermott said: “I’m mystified. I have faith in the video referee, but that’s the reason we question it. In the heat and intensity, referees can make decisions that are wrong on reflection, but to get it wrong when you’ve watched it over and over again, it’s worrying.
“Why do we need a decision [from the on-field referee]? That’s the point. The lesson from this is that if the referee’s not sure, then he’s not sure. The video referee couldn’t overturn it tonight because he couldn’t find the evidence. Why make a decision, why go up with a decision?”
Clarke agreed, and went as far as saying he would remove the video referee from the equation altogether. The opposite of that is set to happen in 2024 with the extra official and replay facilities at every single Super League game.
The former Great Britain and England international added: “It should be a try. Me and Barrie are of a different opinion because I wouldn’t even have a video referee, I don’t think it gives you anything conclusive.
“The video referee himself couldn’t make a decision, I listened to his voice and he was tormented because he couldn’t tell from the angles whether there was obstruction. He said there wasn’t enough clear evidence to overrule the referee’s decision… the system is flawed.”
Meanwhile, ex-Leeds Rhinos man Jones-Buchanan focused on what the no-try meant in terms of the competition, saying: “The decision and the swing is catastrophic, because it’s the difference between Wigan finishing top or Catalans, or even just Wigan finishing in the top two. It’s a massive decision.”
Wigan Warriors boss Matt Peet and Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam both shy away from discussing controversial call
In the midst of Wigan’s post-match celebrations, Sky’s pitchside reporter Jenna Brooks spoke to Warriors chief Matt Peet. In the middle of their interview, she asked about the controversial call, with a response suggestive Peet knew they had gotten away with one.
A few moments earlier, they had seen a try of their own chalked off for an obstruction which looked a bit more clear-cut, though he believed both should have stood.
“I think they’re both tries, once one gets cancelled they probably had to cancel the other one as well. I don’t like it, but I guess at least it was consistent. I’m not talking about that, I’m not going to be drawn into it.
“I thought there were some incidents throughout the game that were a bit 50/50 and you couldn’t really see whether the officials were really sure.”
Leopards boss Lam meanwhile refused to give an interview to Sky, with the broadcaster saying he hadn’t been allowed to by the club’s owner Derek Beaumont.
‘Absolute f*cking bulls*it mate’ were the words he uttered as the no try decision was revealed in-game when the Sky cameras panned to him.