February 4, 2023

Rugby league pundits and former players rioted after the Wests Tigers were robbed of a win on Sunday by a controversial late penalty against North Queensland.

Trailing 25-18 with six minutes to go, the Tigers appeared to have secured a famous comeback victory thanks to attempts by Brent Naden and Starford To’a, with the latter preventing with 90 seconds left to play.

But it was not to be for Wests, who allowed a penalty after the Cowboys started with one second on the clock when Asu Kepaoa was judged to have knocked out Kyle Feldt after the restart.

Referee Chris Butler awarded a controversial late penalty to the Cowboys after the Bunker intervened and ruled Asu Kepaoa had knocked out Kyle Feldt

Contact between Feldt and Kepaoa seemed minimal, but the Cowboys winger ended up on the turf and North Queensland skipper Chad Townsend opted to use a captain’s challenge.

Referee Chris Buttler referred the decision to the Bunker, with video official Ashley Klein awarding the Cowboys a penalty, which Valentine Holmes duly converted to seal a dramatic win.

Several rugby league pundits and former players were outraged by the decision, with AAP NRL journalist Scott Bailey on Twitter describing it as ‘the worst call of the year’.

“Escort or not, you literally can’t challenge something that hasn’t been called out,” he tweeted.

AAP NRL journalist Scott Bailey described the decision as ‘the worst call of the year’ on Twitter

“Otherwise players could challenge at every play-the-ball, something the NRL has been adamant about all season. Worst call of the year.’

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Sydney Morning Herald journalist Michael Chammas and his Nine counterpart Zac Bailey echoed the position, lamenting a “bad decision” and a “terrible decision,” while News Corp’s Dave Riccio called it “shameful.”

Speaking of Triple M, NRL great James Graham called the decision a “disgrace” and wondered why the Cowboys were allowed to ask for a captain’s armband when the referee had not interrupted play.

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Michael Chammas and his Nine counterpart Zac Bailey reiterated the position, deploring a ‘terrible’ decision by the officials

News Corp’s Dave Riccio called decision to award the Cowboys a penalty ’embarrassing’

‘That’s a shock. What are they challenging? The full-time whistle? They dispute the fact that the full-time siren went off.

“There is no decision to challenge. It’s just a tackle. That’s a robbery – a balaclava, a sawed-off shotgun, and someone went to Townsville and robbed the Tigers of two points.”

His Triple M colleague Mark Geyer agreed. “I have to say this is the WORST decision/ruling I’ve seen. How do you get that wrong,” the former New South Wales player wrote on Facebook.

Speaking of Fox League, rugby legend Greg Alexander was similarly incredulous and tore into Klein.

Former Blues star Mark Geyer said the penalty was the worst decision he’s ever seen

Rugby league great Greg Alexander (left) was outraged by the decision and reprimanded referee Ashley Klein (right), who was Sunday’s Bunker official

‘Oh my God […] are you serious?’ he said. He [Klein] had a shocker in the box today, Ashley Klein, an absolute shocker. Did he say Kepaoa went sideways? That’s waste.

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‘He [Kepaoa] runs to the ball and that’s why he went sideways. That’s a huge call from the Bunker. He made some strange ones this afternoon on both sides.

‘Did the referee stop the game? Kepaoa runs for the ball, he has no eyes for Kyle Feldt. I don’t think you can fine. I want to hear them talk to get out of here.’