‘That’s played at right angles!’: The baffling moments that exposed NRL’s big Bunker problem

Another week, another Bunker rant.

The first half of Thursday night’s round opening clash between the Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles has seen a pair of controversial calls in the first half lead to tries.

And it’s dragged the NRL’s much-maligned review system back under fire just days after football boss Graham Annesley once again defended the use of the technology.

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Controversial calls last weekend renewed amplified to “blow it up” from NRL 360 host Paul Kent as he argued it was detracting from the game.

Kent has been far from the only critic as Immortal Andrew Johns disagreed with the first try for the Storm as the technology continues to leave fans confused by inconsistent applications of the rules.

Six minutes into the match, the Storm scored from a scrum 10m out as Brandon Smith took the ball from lock before passing to Cameron Munster to score the easiest of tries.

But on Channel 9’s coverage, Johns couldn’t help but notice Storm fullback Nick Meaney running the decoy and colliding with Sea Eagles fullback Reuben Garrick.

Andrew Johns called for consistency. Photo: Fox SportsSource: FOX SPORTS

The obstruction rule is a can of worms itself but it has been implemented in similar situations in the past.

While it’s not clear if Garrick would have stopped the try, Johns fumed about the Bunker’s inconsistency, particularly with State of Origin right round the corner.

Initially Johns said “please I hope they’re not going to look at the contact on Reuben Garrick there”.

But he quickly changed his tune.

“I don’t want to sound like a nark, but if they’re going to be consistent, for the last few years that’s a no-try,” Johns said on Nine’s coverage.

“We’re coming into the biggest period of the year: Origin time. Whether there’s been a change (to obstruction interpretations), I don’t know. But if they’re going to be consistent that’s a no-try. That’s a deadset no-try, because Meaney checks the fullback there, Reuben Garrick.”

The Storm then held the 6-0 lead until the 31st minute when Chris Lewis crossed the line off a slick inside ball from Jahrome Hughes.

However, Fox League’s Andrew Voss caught the fact that Felise Kaufusi had placed the ball when standing on an angle.

The rules state the attacker must face the opponents try line when playing the ball.

Voss said: “That’s played at right angles, it’s missed again. They can’t go back to the playing the ball, Lewis has gone over but I think the replay will show quite graphically that the man playing the ball was facing the crowd in the grandstand.”

The Bunker is able to return to the play-the-ball and can only return to where ball clears the ruck.

Michael Ennis argued however that “we don’t need the Bunker”, as the referee was watching the play the ball.

Felise Kaufusi didn’t play the ball straight. Photo: Fox SportsSource: FOX SPORTS

“We don’t need the Bunker, we don’t need that,” he said. “That’s the referees job, he’s missed it, we move on.”

It did lead to some confusion on social media.

Channel 7 presenter Matt Baseley tweeted: “What is the point of the bunker if it can’t rule on something like that?”

AAP’s Scott Bailey added: “I’m sure the angle of Felise Kaufusi when he played that ball will absolutely thrill Des Hasler.”

Ultimately the plays didn’t matter as the Storm, inspired by a Cameron Munster masterclass, ran out 28-8 winners and avoided a third straight loss.

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