Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien has refused to slam NRL officials after seeing the Knights cop two tough calls from the bunker in their 36-12 loss to Brisbane.
In front of a crowd of 13,312 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday, the Broncos moved into the NRL’s top four and secured their fifth straight win for the first time since 2017.
The victory was made all the more impressive for the Broncos considering halfback Adam Reynolds was a late scratching with a groin complaint for debutant Ezra Mam.
But the focus of the game will remain on two calls which left the Knights scratching their heads.
The first came in the first half when Knights centre Dane Gagai juggled the ball in the process of scoring, regathered the ball, and then dotted down, but the adjudication was that he had knocked on.
The second, and most controversial, came in the 69th minute with the Broncos leading 14-12 before winger Selwyn Cobbo crossed the whitewash.
In the build-up to the Cobbo try, Brisbane fullback Te Maire Martin ran behind Jordan Riki, the latter preventing Knights halfback Adam Clune from getting to Martin and making a tackle.
But despite replays showing Clune was obstructed, referee Adam Gee and the bunker allowed the try to stand.
“I think if that happens on the 10 metre line or on the tryline, the rule should be the same all the way down the field,” said O’Brien, who lost star centre Bradman Best to an elbow injury.
“I don’t understand it. If that had happened down there (on the tryline), it would have been pulled back, I imagine.”
O’Brien said Cobbo’s first try was not the reason for the Knights’ loss but admitted that it left Newcastle reeling.
“Because that happened, it’s inexcusable for us to sort of turn it up there (at the end),” he said. “I get that it took a bit of wind out of the sails.”
The two sides could not be split at halftime with Newcastle’s Tyson Frizell scoring the opener before Billy Walters hit back to make it 6-6.
The game was Anthony Milford’s first as a Newcastle player after he left Brisbane last year and had a contract with South Sydney withdrawn after he was hit with assault charges.
Now cleared to play, Milford showed some classy touches but it wasn’t enough to keep the Knights in the game.
Riki and Knights captain Kalyn Ponga traded tries before Cobbo put the Broncos clear with 10 minutes to go.
The Knights fell apart with Cobbo adding a second, while Herbie Farnworth also went in after Corey Oates scored on the end of a well-weighted Mam kick.
“We weren’t so great tonight in our first half but in the second, the boys came together and finished off well,” said Broncos coach Kevin Walters.
“I’m particularly happy for the playing group, there’s been some some tough years and we seem to be getting bit in front of the curve which is which is really good.”