AFTER calling for their heads last month and wanting them banned, New South Wales coach Laurie Daley should buy referees Ben Cummins and Gerard Sutton a few beers following last night’s controversial and dramatic third State of Origin game.
The Blues sent retiring captain Paul Gallen off with a pulsating 18-14 victory, the winning try coming in the 79th minute after Queensland had been hammered in the penalties by the two whistleblowers, who six weeks ago were in Daley’s bad books.
Gallen was at the centre of another highly controversial incident in his farewell game, with Queensland furious he led his players off the field during Cameron Smith’s acceptance speech for winning the series – the Maroons’ 10th in the past 11 years.
Early last month Queensland won a tight and tense opening Origin in Sydney when a few 50-50 calls went against NSW.
The normally unflappable Daley came out swinging after the game declaring both referees had to be axed.
“Put it this way, I’ll be asking those two referees to not be officiating in game two,” Daley fired.
While Queensland wrapped up the series earlier this month in Brisbane with both Cummins and Sutton in the middle, they played a huge part in NSW avoiding a whitewash at ANZ Stadium with a performance that certainly helped Daley’s cause.
There was no suggestion after the loss from the Queensland camp they felt refereed out of the game.
But skipper Cameron Smith was clearly at a loss to explain the massive 9-1 first-half penalty count (12-3 overall) against Queensland, which fatigued his players late in the game.
“I don’t know,” was his short answer when asked how Queensland conceded nine penalties to NSW’s one in 40 minutes.
Adding to the controversy was the decision to send Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk to the sin bin the 30th minute for what sure is the “softest” offence in an Origin game.
And then there was Andrew Fifita’s try, which went to the Bunker because it appeared obvious NSW centre Michael Jennings, who later scored the match-winning try, was offside when Wade Graham toed the ball into the in-goal.
While Jennings did not interfere with any play, he continued to chase the ball and under the rules, Smith said he was therefore offside.
When Smith approached Sutton at one stage the referee rebuked him saying: “I am the referee, not you.”
Given all that went against Queensland, Smith was entitled to launch a similar attack but instead he praised the defensive performance of his players, rating it the best effort of the series given the odds stacked against them.