Leeds Rhinos: Touch judge Roberts passes first Super League trial

Referee Phil Bentham who suffered an injury during Leeds Rhinos' Challenge Cup game with Huddersfield.

Referee Phil Bentham who suffered an injury during Leeds Rhinos' Challenge Cup game with Huddersfield.

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TOUCH JUDGE Jonathan Roberts got more than he bargained for during Leeds Rhinos’ Ladbrokes Challenge Cup showdown with Huddersfield Giants at Headingley.

Roberts – from Batley and a member of the Leeds Referees’ Society – swapped flag for whistle at half-time of the BBC-televised contest when man in the middle Phil Bentham could not carry on, because of a hamstring injury. Promoted to Grade One at the start of this year, Roberts is qualified to take charge of matches in the lower divisions.

But he has never refereed at Super League level.

“It was a bit unexpected,” he said. “I didn’t expect, coming to the game, to end up in the middle.

“It was a first for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Roberts got the job because he is a more senior official than Saturday’s game’s other touch judge, Clint Sharrad.

“I am a grade one referee and I referee in Championship One, so it boiled down to me to do it,” he confirmed.

“When he came in at half-time Phil said he wasn’t fit to carry on, so there wasn’t much notice at all.

“I touch judge in Super League regularly, most weeks, but refereeing is a totally different ball game.”

Roberts, who has been refereeing for 19 years, will review his performance, but paid tribute to the players of both teams for helping him through.

He awarded only five penalties and said: “They were outstanding, brilliant – they really worked with me and that made things a lot easier.”

Danny McGuire

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