NRL: Eight most controversial final calls

Kieran Foran was involved in a contentious incident as Manly knocked out North Queensland. Photo / Getty
Kieran Foran was involved in a contentious incident as Manly knocked out North Queensland. Photo / Getty

From the Hand of Foran to Mario's March and the seventh tackle try, these were the calls that rocked the NRL finals.

8. Decoy drama halts Broncos' comeback

Sixth-placed Melbourne ambushed third-placed Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in week one of the 2005 finals, charging to an 18-4 half-time lead. The Broncos rallied after the break and were looking ominous when video ref Chris Ward disallowed a Brent Tate try due to a head-scratching obstruction call, with Darren Smith pinged for taking out Matt Orford. The Storm held on for a 24-18 win - and Wayne Bennett wasn't happy. "They all got conned," the Broncos coach said post-match, before accusing Orford of taking a dive.

7. Bears square-up swings final

North Sydney's 51-year grand final drought looked to be over when referee Greg McCallum gave Canberra enforcer John Lomax an early shower for an ugly high tackle during the first half of the 1994 preliminary final. The Bears led 6-2 at the time, but their one-man advantage was nullified just four minutes later as Gary Larson received his marching orders for a spear tackle on David Furner.

Team-mate Tony Hearn's involvement in the tackle contributed heavily to the dangerous position Furner ended up in, while Larson became the first player sent off for that offence all season. The Raiders capitalised on the extra space to romp home 22-9.

6. Bulldogs boosted by forward-pass shocker

St George raced to an early 12-0 lead in the 1998 elimination final against Canterbury, but the Bulldogs engineered a stirring comeback that began with a comically forward pass from hooker Jason Hetherington to put winger Daryl Halligan over in the corner. Tensions at Kogarah boiled over with 19 minutes to go when the Dragons, trailing by two, were denied a try to Jeff Hardy by the video ref. The Bulldogs scored a late try to advance 20-12, while referee Steve Clark required a police escort from the ground amid ugly post-match scenes.

5. Fenech marched for gouging

South Sydney captain Mario Fenech's hot-headed reputation reached its zenith in the 1986 minor semi against Balmain. Referee Kevin Roberts sensationally sent off the tempestuous hooker for allegedly gouging bitter rival Ben Elias in a scrum just after half-time -- a charge Fenech vehemently denied - and the Tigers turned an 8-all scoreline into a 36-11 shellacking. Meanwhile, Balmain's Steve Roach remained on the field despite a head-butt midway through the second half that he was subsequently suspended for.

4. Forward passes stall Steelers' shot at history

St George ousted Illawarra 4-0 in an extraordinary preliminary final in 1992, with the Steelers - participating in their maiden post-season campaign - contentiously denied three second-half tries. Centre Brett Rodwell was called back twice after forward-pass calls by Greg McCallum, while veteran winger Alan McIndoe had his claims of a late score-levelling try quashed by the in-goal judge's knock-on ruling. The Steelers were fated never to appear in a grand final as a single entity.

3. Hand of Foran

A highly debatable benefit-of-the-doubt ruling in favour of Manly winger Jorge Taufua broke a 12-all deadlock in the 51st minute of the 2012 semi-final showdown with North Queensland, but that decision paled in comparison to one of the all-time great video ref howlers 10 minutes later. Michael Oldfield claimed a try after a mad scramble for a Daly Cherry-Evans bomb in front of the Cowboys' posts, but replays clearly showed Kieran Foran knocking the ball forward in the lead-up. Steve Clark and Paul Simpkins somehow found cause to push the green button, though, and the Sea Eagles bundled the Cowboys out 22-12.

2. Sharks awarded infamous seventh-tackle try

Still brooding from their exit 12 months earlier, the Cowboys were brought undone by substandard officiating again in their sudden-death qualifying final against the Sharks in 2013. The Cowboys led 6-0 early, but the Sharks levelled almost immediately courtesy of a Beau Ryan try that came on the seventh tackle after a miscount from whistleblower Matt Cecchin. The northerners ultimately went down 20-18 in one of the most dramatic post-season clashes of recent years. NRL boss Dave Smith offered his apologies to the Cowboys straight after the match and all six match officials were axed.

1. Hartley thwarts Eels in dramatic replay

Flamboyant referee Greg Hartley's catalogue of wildly controversial calls in the infamous 1978 minor semi replay between Manly and Parramatta could have filled this entire list. 'Hollywood' sent the Eels' star lock Ray Price off after a scrap late in the first half (he was later cleared by the judiciary), while Sea Eagles half Steve Martin scored a critical try on an erroneous seventh tackle. Manly also received the benefit of two more seven-tackle sets and Parramatta was further disadvantaged by three five-tackle sets in possession. The Eels' appeal to have the 17-11 result annulled was turned down by the NSWRL, while the Sea Eagles surged to an incredible premiership triumph - with Hartley's refereeing constantly in the spotlight.


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