League referees’ boss defends decision even as fans protest in central Auckland

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Andrew Fifita loses the ball before regathering it to score the disallowed try.

The controversy over last night’s Tonga-England game has refused to die down, with Tongan fans marching up Queen St in Auckland this evening to protest the referee’s decision to disallow Andrew Fifita’s last minute try.

Referee Matt Cecchin disallowed the last minute try, which would have given Tonga victory and secured their place in the Rugby League World Cup final against Australia in Brisbane next Sunday.

But even as angry fans were protesting what they described as a “disgraceful decision,” World Rugby League Cup referees’ boss Tony Archer was defending the decision.

Archer said referees were encouraged to make their decisions on the field and claimed that even he had looked at video the decision would have been the same.

Others saw it differently. The Guardian reported that “One second – literally – before the siren, Fifita crashed over, thinking he’d won the game.”

“Why didn’t the ref go upstairs to check that last play?! The video ref may still have ruled in England’s favour but why didn’t he get a chance to adjudicate?”

Radio New Zealand described the decision as controversial and said “I think we might be hearing a bit more about that call.”

The broadcaster reported in its recap of the game: “With their dream of becoming the first tier-two nation to reach the final within their grasp, Tonga battered away at the tiring England defenders only for Andrew Fifita to have the ball stripped out of his hands to end the match with a knock-on.

Fifita picked up the ball and crossed the line, as was his right after a one-on-one strip, but the referee decided not to refer the play to the video official.”

Not surprisingly, the Tongan and English coaches had different views on the outcome.

The BBC reported Tonga coach Kristian Woolf saying he was “surprised” video technology was not used for a potentially crucial late decision in their World Cup semi-final defeat

“I can’t get my head around that. You’ve got to take a look,” Woolf said.

However, England coach  Wayne Bennett backed the referee, saying: “The ref allowed play on and exactly the same thing happened to Fifita.”

“It wasn’t a try because the ball was stripped off him. It was a loose carry, that’s what it comes under the category of.”

The main points

  • The controversy over last night’s Tonga-England game has refused to die down, with Tongan fans marching in Auckland this evening to protest the referee’s decision to disallow Andrew Fifita’s last minute try.
  • Referee Matt Cecchin disallowed the last minute try, which would secured Tonga’s place in the Rugby League World Cup final.
  • Controversy over his decision broke out among commentators immediately.
  • The Guardian asked why Cecchin did not check the video coverage of the final moments.

For more information

Tongan pride after semi-final loss

Recap: England beat Tonga in thriller 

Tonga push England to edge of defeat but ref refuses try that would have secured finals berth

Tongan league fans march in Auckland, angry over semifinal loss to England 

World Cup referees boss Tony Archer defends Fifita ‘no try’ call

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