NRL Round 4 Hits and Misses: Coaches have a point on 50-50 calls

The footy continued over the weekend, with Cowboys coach Todd Payten frustrated by the referees, some strange calls elsewhere and a standout performance from a Storm flyer.

We take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.


Payten says what a lot have been feeling

It is probably not the best look for the NRL to have the head coach of a struggling team come out and say that the referees tend to favour the top teams when making 50-50 calls, but it's something we have all noticed over the years.

Cowboys coach Todd Payten was upset enough following his team's loss to the Roosters on Saturday that he reiterated a point made by Titans coach Justin Holbrook a couple of weeks earlier. The Cowboys had just been soundly beaten by the Roosters after having three players sin-binned during the game.

"There were some calls tonight, 50-50 calls that went against us," Payten said.

"Teams that have been up the pointy end of the competition for a while now, or have high-profile players get the benefit of the doubt too often, and that's frustrating."

As a fan or coach of a club on the wrong end of some close calls, it is always easy to blame the referee for a loss. But even as a neutral observer it is possible to see that the favourites often appear to receive the rub of the green in close calls.

A lesser team being on the wrong end of a penalty count is often put down to poor discipline, something that the better team has under control, but a closer look often reveals a lop-sided degree of scrutiny. The toughest part is that a struggling team needs absolutely everything to go right if they are to have any chance of upsetting one of the top teams. Penalty counts and six again calls might end up even, but when the whistle is blown in one direction early, it is often enough to take the underdog completely out of the contest.

Head coaches pointing the discrepancies out can surely only lead to the NRL fixing the problem. Surely?

How good are Coates and the Storm?

Melbourne Storm are enjoying the physical attributes of recently re-signed winger Xavier Coates. He set up the Storm's first try against the Bulldogs with a massive fend on Josh Addo-Carr and a one-armed inside pass to Ryan Papenhuyzen.

Ten minutes later with the Storm defence under pressure as the Bulldogs camped inside their 20 metre zone with countless tackle restarts, he showed his value once again. Matt Burton put in a clever grubber kick, which Papenhuyzen carried dead. The Storm fullback stood beneath the goal posts for the restart and perfectly floated his drop kick 12 metres out, towards the sideline, where Coates soared to take the two-handed grab above his head. It was so perfectly executed that it looked easy.

With 13 minutes to go in the first half they tried it again, only this time the Bulldogs had three players waiting in ambush for Coates. Six minutes before the break they tried it a third time, only for Papenhuyzen to kick it over everyone into touch on the full. Clearly not as easy as it first looked.

Coates wasn't finished though and halfway through the second half, with the Bulldogs on the end of a hiding and having absolutely no idea how to score a try, the lanky Storm winger picked off an intercept and raced away for a try of his own. Minutes later he made another break down the right-hand side of the field before passing inside for Felise Kaufusi to score. It was an all-round rugby league clinic from the Storm and Coates.


Nothing wrong with that Dragons tackle

With eleven minutes to go in the first half of the Eels clash against the Dragons, a typically tough run up the middle by Ryan Matterson was met by a solid two-man tackle near centre field. Dragons forwards Aaron Woods and Francis Molo slammed the Eels forward into the turf, the ball came loose and the referee called for a scrum with a Dragons feed. The Eels were leading 12-0 and the Dragons desperately needed to swing the game back in their direction.

As the players were packing into the scum, the referee received the call from the bunker, apparently his own eyes had let him down. Molo was put on report for putting Matterson in a dangerous position and the Eels were awarded a free kick. Further review of the tackle showed that one of Matterson's feet never left the ground, his other leg went up as he went down and it was by any stretch of the imagination, nothing but a good solid tackle. The only danger Matterson faced was a halftime spray from his coach for not hanging onto the ball.

At least take a look!

I'm not sure what is going on with the referees and the Tigers. For the second week in a row they have had a try scoring opportunity ruled "no try" without a referral to the bunker. Last week Luciano Leilua reached out for a ball dribbling towards the dead ball line and may or may not have exerted enough downward pressure on it to be awarded a try. Either way, it was definitely worth a review.

Early on Thursday night against the Titans a grubber kick through the defensive line was fumbled by Corey Thompson. It appeared that Kelma Tuilagi scooped it up cleanly before passing inside to Oliver Gildart who put the ball down over the line. The referee ruled it was deflected forward by Tigers' winger Ken Maumalo. Once again it was a line-ball call with commentators bemused by the hurried decision. Surely it was worth a trip to the bunker. Have the referees been put on a referral budget or is it just for the Tigers?

It's just not rugby league

With ten minutes remaining and the game against the Roosters well and truly over, Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi took a hit-up off his tryline. He made it to almost 15 metres out before being hit by two Roosters defenders who stopped his progress, held him up and started marching back towards his line. Another two Roosters joined in, forming a mini-scrum around the unfortunate Taulagi.

They didn't stop until he was in the in-goal area, at which point the referee signalled a goal-line drop-out. Cowboys half Chad Townsend heatedly queried the move and the referee informed him that it was all momentum. They could have marched him all the way to Cairns and you'd have to wonder what happened to the forward progress part of being called held in a tackle? It certainly looked ridiculous, more like a rolling rugby maul than anything that belongs on a rugby league field.