Penrith could have been awarded rare three-point play, NRL confirms

Nathan Cleary about to hit his match-winning field goal. Photo: NRL Images.
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The NRL has stopped short of saying Lachlan Fitzgibbon should have been penalised for a late tackle on Nathan Cleary in Saturday’s game between Penrith and Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium.

But Head of Football Graham Annesley admitted it could have easily been a penalty, suggesting he would have backed his officials had they made such a call on the night.

The Panthers went on to win the game 16-15 in Golden Point thanks to a Cleary field goal.

The incident in question happened late in regulation time, when Cleary kicked a field goal to level the scores at 15-all but was hit in a late tackle by Fitzgibbon.

No action was taken on the field despite Cleary’s protests.

“It could have easily brought a penalty,” Annesley admitted today.

“The ball has gone, well and truly gone. His [Fitzgibbon’s] arms fall to the side and after the ball has gone, he lifts his right arm again and makes contact with Cleary.

“In another game, in a similar situation, that could have been ruled a foul on a kicker.”

NRL Head of Football Graham Annesley. Photo: NRL Images.

Annesley said it was a warning to players that such incidents could end up costing their team matches.

Annesley confirmed if a penalty had been awarded, the field goal would have stood and Cleary would have had a chance to make it a three-point play.

Annesley also addressed the controversial penalty awarded to Penrith after Tyson Frizell accidentally pulled Jarome Luai’s hair in a tackle.

“The referee has been quite heavily criticised for this decision but I just don’t know what else the referee could have done,” he said.

“I get the argument, the hair is long… but we can’t have a rule that says if you have long hair, it’s OK to pull the hair.

“If the referee doesn’t act on that then there’s complaints about the referee not acting on a player getting his hair pulled.”

The incident involving Jarome Luai’s hair. Photo: NRL Images.

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