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‘It was a metre forward’: Smith’s contentious clutch play sinks Souths

Brad Fittler, on the sideline for Nine, was convinced Smith’s pass travelled forward and referee Ashley Klein ”got caught up in all the excitement”.

“It was a metre forward,” Fittler said. “That close to the line, the referee has to be on to that.”

Smith, 37, has the rugby league world guessing whether he will play on. It will come as a bigger shock if he doesn’t retire.

Cameron Smith and Tino Faasuamaleaui celebrate the latter's crucial try for the Storm on Friday night.

Cameron Smith and Tino Faasuamaleaui celebrate the latter’s crucial try for the Storm on Friday night.Credit:Getty

“He’s finding it hard to make a decision by the sounds of it,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“But I won’t change my mind about what I’ve said all along. He deserves to have the time he wants.

“You’d like to think he’s getting close, and the club would ideally like a decision, but at the end of the day we won’t put any pressure on him.”

Bellamy said if Smith did pull the pin, it would be nice to know so they could properly celebrate it.

If Smith, however, does play on, at least he will get to run around with genuine future stars such as Ryan Papenhuyzen, whose speed had Souths’ second-guessing themselves every time he touched the ball. The No.1 finished with a try and had a hand in another two as Melbourne won 22-16.

His combination with fellow speedster Josh Addo-Carr is electric.

If Addo-Carr’s management is shopping the winger to Sydney clubs for $800,000 next year, Papenhuyzen would be entitled to ask for more than $1m.

Christian Welch was placed on report while Felise Kaufusi could be in a spot of bother for ironing out Reynolds off the ball as he tried to get back into the defensive line.

The little halfback was filthy with the shot and was forced from the field for a head injury assessment.

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Souths were up for the fight from the opening whistle and were determined to prove they could continue their hot streak without Latrell Mitchell.

Had Mitchell played at ANZ Stadium on a wet Friday night, and not been stuck at home resting up after hamstring surgery, you would have backed Souths to get home.

“We didn’t learn too many lessons from Melbourne, we learned lessons from ourselves – the opposition tonight for us was South Sydney,” Souths coach Wayne Bennett said.

“We put ourselves under more pressure than Melbourne did.

“The effort was there. [But] that’s about where it stops.”

Bennett was not too concerned about the Smith pass for Faasuamaleaui, and said: “I didn’t think it was the turning point in the game. The amount of mistakes we made [was the turning point].”

Campbell Graham showed fantastic desperation to get a right hand to a Cody Walker kick to score the opening try. Storm winger Isaac Lumelume waited for the ball to trickle over the dead-ball line and had no idea Graham was flying through.

Walker himself bagged a try just before the break, which was quickly cancelled out at the other end of the field when Papenhuyzen sent Justin Olam over in the left corner.

Victory would have moved Souths on to 22 competition points with the Roosters and Canberra. Wests Tigers await next Thursday night followed by Canterbury. On paper they are two games Bennett’s men should win.

The Storm host North Queensland next Sunday and gave themselves a chance to win their fourth minor premiership in five years. They remain three points adrift of competition front-runners Penrith.

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