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NRL boss says unfair to compare Bennett, Cleary penalties

“I’m sure everyone will have their views on the penalties, but they were completely different matters that were looked at completely differently,” Abdo told the Herald.

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“Wayne is also missing effectively two games plus a preparation for a third game because he’s been removed from the competition because of the COVID hold in addition to the financial penalty.

“What Ivan has said is disappointing. The integrity of the competition and integrity of all those people who work in and manage the competition is sacred, and it should be respected.

“We believe he crossed the line in that regard. We’ve said as much as we move on.

“Ivan is a great coach, Penrith are playing great footy. It’s just disappointing someone in a leadership position made a comment like that. We took the action we thought was appropriate. You can’t compare it to a COVID breach.”

ARL Commission chief Peter V’Landys made his feelings clear about Cleary’s comments, going as far as to slam them as “deplorable”. But Abdo said V’Landys had no say on the final penalty.

Panthers head coach Ivan Cleary.

Panthers head coach Ivan Cleary.Credit:Getty

“We’ve seen in the past coaches make comments about referees and we’ve dealt with them consistently.

“Unfortunately we have a history with this. There was no way we were going to allow it. We’re not the World Wrestling Federation. We’re not that type of entertainment, and to insinuate match officials are trying to make matches closer or they’re trying to bring teams back into the contest is not appropriate.”

There were three main decisions in the second half at Penrith Stadium that upset Cleary.

However, NRL head of football Graham Annesley said Sutton got the call right every time.

The Panthers could not understand how Raiders’ fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was awarded his first try in the 48th minute when replays failed to show the ball touching the ground.

There was a penalty awarded to Canberra for Liam Martin’s “flop” on Jordan Rapana in the 62nd minute, despite the Raiders’ winger passing after he had gone into touch.

Jordan Rapana is pushed over the sideline by Liam Martin.

Jordan Rapana is pushed over the sideline by Liam Martin.Credit:Fox Sports

And then Rapana flopped on Josh Mansour, which failed to draw a penalty in the 71st minute.

Josh Mansour was unhappy with Jordan Rapana coming in late for a tackle on Saturday night.

Josh Mansour was unhappy with Jordan Rapana coming in late for a tackle on Saturday night.Credit:Fox Sports

Several replays failed to show Nicoll-Klokstad planting the ball down, while Sutton awarded a try on field.

“When the referee blows the whistle and refers the decision to the bunker, he doesn’t actually say, ‘Can you check if the ball is on the line or not?’ He asks, ‘Can you check if he loses the ball?’ ” Annesley said.

“He had no problems the ball was grounded. He only wanted to check if Charnze had lost possession. The bunker didn’t believe he lost possession, therefore it was a try.

“As for Jordan Rapana going into touch, the video shows Nathan Cleary tackling him around the legs, then Jordan’s arm that was carrying the ball hits the ground, so effectively he was tackled.

“When Liam Martin flops, that flop helps him over the touchline.

“Canberra challenged if he had passed the ball beforehand. He hadn’t. But because Martin comes in, and Canberra’s challenge was actually wrong, the referee had the ability to change the decision and the challenge was successful.”

Annesley said Rapana coming in late into the back of Penrith winger Josh Mansour would only have been a penalty had he lost the ball. And Sutton dealt with the incident “like he would with any ruck infringement and restarted the tackle count”.

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