Why Origin referee blew full-time ‘early’
NSW fans on their couches at home were blowing up at full-time of Origin I, believing the Blues had been robbed of a final play to snatch a win from Queensland.
Down by four, James Tedesco was gang-tackled by five Maroons players in the final seconds and they lay over the top of him in the ruck, determined not to let him play the ball.
Watch State of Origin I REPLAY on Kayo - available 30mins after full time with no ad-breaks during play and Fox League Commentary. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly
In normal circumstances such cynical play would warrant a penalty but with a couple of seconds remaining on Channel 9's game clock, referee Gerard Sutton blew the whistle to confirm Queensland's 18-14 upset.
NSW captain Boyd Cordner questioned Sutton about the call and in Fox League's post-match coverage, Storm and Roosters legend Cooper Cronk said Queensland should have been penalised and the Blues given one last dig.
Viewers watching the Channel 9 broadcast on TV would have been forgiven for thinking the same, but there's a reason it looks like Sutton called time a couple of seconds before the full 80 minutes were up.
Veteran Fox League commentator Warren Smith explained why people were complaining about a controversy that wasn't there after full-time.
"Don't shoot the ref!" Smith tweeted. "In 2014 the NRL changed the way the clock counts down the final seconds of a game for the referee.
"The TV clock is independent of the official clock, with the seconds counted down in the referee's earpiece.
"One of the reasons for the countdown in the referee's earpiece at the end of the game is to do with the slight delay at the venue between the siren sounding and the referee hearing it.
"That, along with crowd noise making it difficult at times for the referee to the hear the siren."
RELATED: Joey, Gus call for heads to roll
So the referee was being fed the official time through his earpiece, while the clock on TV was on a slight delay - something the NRL later confirmed as it defended Sutton's handling of things after reviewing footage of the final play.
"The referee gets a 10-second countdown from the match-day coach in their ear at the end of every half, based off the time-keeper," an NRL spokesman told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"The referee calls full-time off that, not the siren or the scoreboard timer."
After the game, Cronk said of Queensland's last-ditch ruck infringement: "Gerard Sutton should have blown a penalty and given NSW maybe two seconds to set up for one play because that was an infringement that needed to be pulled up."
NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent blew up at the officiating, taking aim at the last-second play and also slamming Sutton for failing to get Felise Kaufusi off the field quickly enough when the back-rower was sin-binned for a professional foul on Queensland's line in the dying seconds.
"Gerard Sutton needs to lose the game for the next game," Kent said. "He shouldn't control Origin again after that. He totally lost it there.
"Kaufusi was just belligerent and refused to go off the field and pretended he didn't know what was going on. Sutton should have got him off.
"And then in the last minute NSW actually passed the ball with time on the clock from dummy half. Then the siren rang with the ball in play and he whistled full-time. It doesn't make sense."
Originally published as Why Origin referee blew full-time 'early'