Controversy at Salford Red Devils - ref got it right says Leeds Rhinos coach

Richie Myler and Luke Gale tackle Niall Evalds. Picture by Steve Riding.Richie Myler and Luke Gale tackle Niall Evalds. Picture by Steve Riding.
Richie Myler and Luke Gale tackle Niall Evalds. Picture by Steve Riding. | freelance
A controversial decision which left Salford Red Devils boss Ian Watson fuming was the correct call, his Leeds Rhinos counterpart Richard Agar believes.

Rhinos hit back from 8-0 down to win 22-8 at AJ Bell Stadium in Betfred Super League round four.

Having been two points behind at the interval, the visitors went ahead through a try by Luke Briscoe after Richie Myler and Luke Gale had forced Niall Evalds to concede a drop out from Rob Lui’s kick.

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Watson felt his full-back was tackled in the air and it should have been a penalty to Salford, claiming after the match referee Marcus Griffiths had “ruined” the game.

Marcus Griffiths. Picture by Steve Riding.Marcus Griffiths. Picture by Steve Riding.
Marcus Griffiths. Picture by Steve Riding. | freelance

The angry Salford coach said: “As soon as the crowd went berserk at the referee, he just washed his hands of Salford and refereed the game in a totally different manner.

“Ten times out of 10 if that tackle on Evalds was on television, that’s a penalty.”

But video and audio of the incident suggests the official got it right, though Agar admitted he could understand Watson’s frustration.

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“We have all been there,” Agar said of Watson’s post-match outburst.

“I have been there and no doubt we will go there again at some point.

“There’s a lot of emotion, time, effort and passion invested into every single game we play.

“I understand that and I understand Ian’s frustrations.

“Watching the game live I didn’t have a feed, we couldn’t get a feed at their stadium.

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“Generally we have the luxury of instant replays right at our fingertips, but we didn’t and when it happened I remember turning to Jonesy [assistant-coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan] and saying it looked really, really close.

“To the naked eye I think I would have said I agreed with Ian and it looked like a penalty, however, we’ve sat back and watched it.

“We have the hindsight and beauty of a frame-by-frame computer that can slow it down and what we’d say is Niall Evalds’ foot is on the ground.”

The question then is whether there was any contact from Leeds’ chasers before he landed.

Agar said: “Have they touched him before?

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“If you tackle someone in the air, their feet rarely get to the ground in a stable position like that.

“The video is pretty inconclusive because of the angle, Luke and Richie are very much in the way.

“I have asked all our staff what they thought of it and everybody is pretty much in agreement that the referee got it right.”

Griffiths was wired for sound and that backs up that feeling, Agar added.

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“When you put the audio of the video on, the ref’s in a terrific spot and he actually calls Evalds in the air, as in ‘he’s up’.

“Then when his foot hits the floor you can hear him shout ‘he’s down’.

“And immediately the ref shouts, his left foot was on the ground before we touched him.

“From where we were, looking at the replays, I would not bet that the ref hasn’t got this one correct, although it was a very, very fine line.”

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Rhinos added another two tries after Briscoe’s score, withstanding five successive penalties near their line at one stage in the final quarter.

The penalty count ended eight-eight.

A member of the Widnes referees’ society, Griffiths, 25, joined the RFL’s list of full-time match officials last season.