David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Shaun Johnson's match-winner saves referees from embarrassment

Shaun Johnson's match-winning heroics in Saturday's golden point NRL victory over Penrith meant the failure of the match officials to act on two penalty-worthy infringements during extra time went largely overlooked by viewers and commentators.

Frustrations are growing among the game's fans and NRL clubs as referees and video bunker officials continue to turn a blind eye to penalty offences in the crucial stages of matches that go into extra time.

After losing three times in golden point in their previous four outings the Warriors finally managed to break their extra-time hoodoo when halfback Johnson scorched over for a try in the 89th minute of their clash against Penrith at Mt Smart Stadium.

Despite clinching the result the Warriors have come in for criticism for perceived poor organisation and execution that saw them fritter away numerous chances to slot a field goal that would have won the game.

However, the Herald has uncovered video footage from the game that shows Penrith were fortunate to not be penalised for offences that twice sabotaged chances of the Warriors slotting a match-winning one-pointer.

Four minutes into the first period of golden point, a strong carry from Warriors front-rower Albert Vete puts his side five metres out from the Penrith line and directly in front of the uprights at the northern end of the ground, with halves Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai well positioned to make an attempt at goal from behind and either side of the play the ball.

However, three Penrith defenders - Trent Merrin, Leilani Latu and Matt Moylan - are all standing either side of Vete without being square at marker before Latu and Moylan, together with the assistance of Tyrone Peachey, manage to trap Warriors hooker Issac Luke with the ball on the last tackle.

The result should have been a penalty to the Warriors but referee Grant Atkins fails to blow his whistle and award what would have been a likely two points to decide the match.

Five minutes later, with time running down in the second period of golden point, the Warriors again attempt to set for a field goal when Leuluai is tackled by a slowly retreating Latu, who was five metres offside.

From the ensuing ruck, Panthers hooker Peter Wallace - who is also offside and a metre in front of Atkins, who is positioned just a few metres to his right - sprints up to successfully charge-down Johnson's attempt at a dropped goal.

Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans celebrates after kicking the match-winning field goal to beat the Warriors in golden point. Photo / Getty Images.
Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans celebrates after kicking the match-winning field goal to beat the Warriors in golden point. Photo / Getty Images.

The unpunished incidents follow the Warriors heartbreaking 15-14 defeat to Manly in Perth that saw players from both teams blatantly offside while trying to defend field goal plays by Johnson and Sea Eagles halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, who eventually nailed a shot off his left foot to win the game at nib Stadium.

The problem of referees failing to act on offences that would earn a penalty during any other stage of regulation time has become so bad that Warriors coach Andrew McFadden instructed his halves to be aware of opportunities to run the ball with defenders rushing up and potentially leaving holes to exploit.

That proved to be the case when Johnson stepped inside a quickly advancing and staggered Panthers line to make an angled run past several defenders to dive over and score.

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