COACH Geoff Toovey last night warned obstruction rulings would cause mass confusion during the finals after Manly had two tries disallowed under the rule in a torrid win over North Queensland - and captain Jamie Lyon even added: "Hopefully a game doesn't get decided from it."
The Sea Eagles snatched North Queensland's top-four spot from them with a powerful win at Dairy Farmers Stadium despite having potential tries to Tony Williams (11th minute) and Brett Stewart (63rd) disallowed when video referee Steve Clark ruled Cowboys defenders had been illegally obstructed by Anthony Watmough and Steve Matai respectively.
Centre Matai failed to finish the game due to a sprained ankle and is in doubt for Friday's game against South Sydney.
Toovey said in the case of the first no-try, Cowboy Glenn Hall took a dive. "I don't think they can sort it out before the finals,'' he blasted. ''I've spoken to the refs and they have a different opinion to me - or the boss has a different opinion to me. I'm sure other coaches have different opinions as well. I guess it will just wait until the end of the year and there'll be confusion along the way.
"You don't know whether to tell your players to fall over … I don't know any more. That's something we need to deal with. I think the coaches and officials need to deal with it, probably at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see what they say about the obstruction rule now - who knows? It's a hit-and-miss thing. I thought the first one was unlucky - the bloke took a dive."
Hall landed on the ground as Williams chased Kieran Foran's kick in the lead-up to the first no-try, with Watmough later protesting: "I didn't touch him.'' Defender Brent Tate immediately complained he had been blocked by Matai when Stewart went over in the second instance, with the scores at 6-6.
Lyon said: "It's tough. Things look like a try and then they're [not]. There's a lot of different reasoning there. It's just got to be sorted out, like Geoff said. There's probably going to be some more in the coming weeks - hopefully a game doesn't get decided from it."
This was a Herculean defensive showing from Toovey's men and the Sea Eagles put just as much gusto into a deafening rendition of the team song. "We held out some of the best attacking players in the comp," prop George Rose said.
Five-eighth Foran sliced through from a scrum in the 25th minute for the first try of the match, converted by Lyon.
The second half started with Manly's Darcy Lussick being placed on report for a high shot on Ashton Sims. Seven minutes later, Daly Cherry-Evans and David Williams had a terrible miscommunication as they attempted to defuse a Matt Bowen bomb. The ball ended up in the arms of Cowboys centre Kane Linnett, who forced his way over. Johnathan Thurston's goal made it 6-6 and that's how it stayed for 16 minutes of physical, finals-style football. An off-side penalty when the Cowboys were defending their own line allowed Lyon to kick the winning points.
Toovey also had a little dig at Thurston over his claims that regional teams were the subject of unfair disadvantages when it came to scheduling. "Someone came out and said Sydney clubs have got some sort of bias their way but, I mean, we won't get to play at Brookvale Oval [in the finals], I know that," Toovey said.
Cowboys coach Neil Henry said the ruling against the Williams try was 50-50 but the second touchdown should definitely not have been awarded. "If the inside-out defender gets impeded and his space gets taken away and he can't adjust to move to defend, it's an obstruction," he said.
MANLY 8 (K Foran try J Lyon 2 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 6 (K Linnett try J Thurston goal) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 14,401.