The Raiders were potentially thwarted by a controversial Bunker decision that gifted the Warriors a crucial penalty in the 79th minute.
The Warriors have defied the odds to claim a thrilling Golden Point victory over the Canberra Raiders at Moreton Daily Stadium, with Shaun Johnson booting a field goal in extra time to secure the comeback win.
But Saturday afternoon’s triumph was potentially aided by a controversial Bunker decision that gifted the Warriors a crucial penalty in the 79th minute.
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The Raiders were leading by two points when Canberra forward Corey Horsburgh tackled rival prop Matt Lodge 15 metres out from the tryline with less than two minutes remaining on the clock.
The Warriors players immediately threw their arms in air, indicating that Horsburgh’s tackle was high — boos echoed around the Redcliffe venue as Lodge lay on the deck clutching at his face.
Replays showed that Horsburgh’s first contact was with Lodge’s forearm before sliding up and making minimal contact with the head.
“There’s nothing doing,” commentator Brenton Speed said on Fox League.
“He thinks he’s been caught high here and he knows where he is, he’s 20m out directly in front, if they get the penalty we’ll be all locked up.”
Wests Tigers great Steve Roach continued: “Players don’t like blokes who lie down, playing for the penalty.
“I don’t think it even hit him in the head.”
But the commentators were left gobsmacked when Horsburgh was put on report and the Warriors were awarded a penalty.
“Wow, the Bunker has seen it differently,” Speed muttered.
“Lodge outsmarts everyone.”
Former Queensland representative Brent Tate fumed: “I can’t believe it was a penalty.
“We go back to the problem we have with the bunker interfering in games. I don’t know what to say to be honest, it just was not a penalty at all, it was a very soft one.
“There is no dangerous contact with his head at all and as a result we’ve got players laying down, it’s just not a great look for our game at all.”
Roach continued: “He’s bounced off his forearm. He didn’t even hit him in the melon.
“He wound up tackling him on his jumper behind his head.”
Warriors teenager Reece Walsh made no mistake with the penalty kick, equalling the scores and sending the game to Golden Point — and three minutes later, Johnson’s right foot secured the Warriors’ first win since Round 5.
ABC journalist Nick Campton tweeted: “The penalty on Horsburgh was ridiculous — maybe a penalty on the run, but if that’s on report they’re kidding themselves. But it doesn’t matter so much cause the Raiders can’t get a thing going. Terrified about how bad things might get.”
Sports reporter Liam O’Loughlin posted: “Matt Lodge may not be everyone’s favourite bloke but if I’m a Warriors fan, I’d be buying him a few beers next time I see him after that win. High tackle by the letter of the law and he milked it for all it was worth — good gamesmanship IMO.”
Earlier in the match, Lodge was put on report for raising his elbow into the face of Raiders forward Corey Harawira-Naera while carrying the ball.
The Raiders were plagued by unforced errors and clumsy knock-ons throughout the second half, much to the frustration of coach Ricky Stuart.
“That whole second-half was undisciplined, lacked any quality execution – it was just very disappointing,” he told reporters at the post-match press conference.
“I’m glad they were as bad as us.
“I’m lost for comment in regards to the quality of that football in the second-half.
“For any loyal fan or real fan we have got left, I feel really embarrassed and sorry for them.
“I can put my finger on it, but from a public point of view, it’s not something I need to discuss here at a press conference.”
The Raiders accumulated a total of eight penalties and 18 errors in Redcliffe.
The men in green, who didn’t score a single point in the second half, have now suffered five consecutive defeats, with their finals chances looking slimmer every week.
“Unfortunately for the Raiders they have been touted as the faders this year and again it happened,” former Sydney Roosters star Braith Anasta told Fox League.
“They didn’t score a point in that second half, they were quite convincing and dominant in that first half, they had opportunities to go on with the game but couldn’t get it done.
“That is heartbreak, that is five losses in a row for the Raiders and their season sliding away.
“It has to be psychological, it has to be put down to a lack of belief within the side to get the job done.”
Earlier on Saturday, reports emerged that Warriors playmaker Ash Taylor had decided to announce his retirement from the NRL at age 27.
Canberra will next face the Canterbury Bulldogs at GIO Stadium on Friday evening, with kick-off scheduled for 6pm AEST.
Originally published as ‘Can’t believe it’: Canberra Raiders cruelly robbed by Bunker call