Anthony Milford was flattened, but was well enough to kick a penalty goal before heading off. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
The Brisbane Broncos have raised eyebrows and the ire of South Sydney fans with their use of the head injury assessment and some lucky breaks in a 25-24 win over the Rabbitohs.
The controversy extended to Anthony Milford’s game-winning field goal, when it appeared the referees may have missed a knock-on in the lead-up.
Milford was also part of a questionable bunker ruling in the 68th minute, but it all started with an odd incident with the head injury assessment (HIA) at the end of the first half.
The HIA debacle
In the 38th minute, Milford copped a heavy hit from Sam Burgess.
Awarding a penalty for the shot was controversial enough, but after taking the knock, Milford nailed the 20-metre penalty goal.
Brisbane, already without first-choice goal-kicker Jordan Kahu, allowed Milford to pot the goal before trainers took him from the field for an HIA.
The pivot passed the concussion test during the half-time break and returned to play upon resumption.
ABC Grandstand tweet: Bunnies fans make their frustration towards referees known, security accompany refs to sheds at the half #NRLSouthsBroncos
Under the rules, a player must leave the field immediately the moment a trainer notices any of five concussion symptoms.
Milford was seen to by a trainer before taking the kick and it is entirely possible that he showed no signs of concussion before the attempt.
“Sometimes with concussion it doesn’t manifest straight away — you get a knock and players, a couple of minutes after, don’t feel right. That can happen,” former coach Matthew Elliott said on Grandstand.
“However, I tend to be a little cynical in this particular situation, and I think that cynicism’s shared by some of the people in the burrow.”
The Souths fans were indeed furious, letting their voices be heard so loudly that police and security gathered around the referees and teams as they left the field with the Broncos leading 18-8.
The incident is sure to be looked at by the NRL, which had a fresh crackdown on abuse of the HIA system earlier this season.
The Titans, Dragons and Knights received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fines for abuse of the concussion protocols.
The bunker bungle
Rabbitohs hooker Robbie Farah told Grandstand he felt the team was “probably a bit unlucky with a few calls” and he was definitely talking about this one.
NRL bunker tweet: Vision of the @brisbanebroncos Try decision in the 68th minute of #NRLSouthsBroncos.
Initially ruled a try to Milford, the bunker could not see that the pivot had grounded the ball.
It appeared the South Sydney defenders had done enough to hold up Milford, but a late ball game spitting out of the tackle.
Centre Tautau Moga scooped up the ball and crossed, although the length of time Milford was held should almost certainly have been enough for the play to be called dead.
“I don’t know what the ruling is there. It’s pretty disappointing,” Farah said.
“We were confident he didn’t get the ball down and you pretty much assume the tackle’s complete there — he’s on the ground with all our defenders over him.
“It’s another tough call, but the refs will defend it somehow.”
The bunker deemed it did not have enough evidence to overturn the on-field decision — although that was a try to Milford, not Moga.
The final nail
The last nail in the coffin of a rough night for the Rabbitohs was Milford apparently fumbling in the lead-up to his match-winner.
Both teams having already missed field-goal shots after Moga’s converted try squared the ledger at 24.
The Broncos had another chance in the 78th minute, when Milford gathered a low pass, faked a right-footed shot and poked a leftie goal to secure the win.
Unfortunately, slow-motion replays left a bit of doubt over just how cleanly he had gathered the pass from dummy half Andrew McCullough.
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