By Jonathan Wilkinson
I must have re-written this blog post in my head about 4 times yesterday during Leeds Rhinos defeat to Wigan in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.
After about 25 minutes this post was shaping up to be all about how Leeds had failed to turn up for the second year in a row, and were brushed aside in another embarrassing display as Wigan raced to a 16-0 lead. Leeds were making unforced errors, missing tackles, and failing to stop Wigan's offloads. We were lucky to be only 16-0 down, as a tide of Cherry & White shirts stormed forward, including a length of the field try involving the Tomkins' brothers.
Leeds then began to play and grabbed 2 tries before the end of the half; all of a sudden I was starting to write something about restoring pride, going down fighting, and showing that we were not the whipping boys the press so desperately wanted us to be so they could write pieces about their "darling" Sam Tomkins.
The first try of the second half was going to be all important and we got it. All of a sudden, something that seemed impossible just 20 minutes ago was looking possible; we could win this game, as we were just 2 points behind and clearly in charge of the game. Wigan were in shock, they were on the ropes. Fortunately for them the ref decided to give them a hand by making a string of errors that would ultimately decide the game.
Now this brings us to the 3rd post I wrote, the one I wrote about 10 seconds after Ganson decided that Wigan had won the game by giving them the benefit of the doubt. That post would have been entitled, "Refs screw the Rhinos, the cheating BASTARDS!" Now let me briefly explain that the benefit of the doubt in any video ref decision in rugby league goes for the attacking team, which means if the video ref cannot decide if a player grounded the ball or not, he will award the try, which in itself is a highly flawed rule; that a game can be taken away from a team because a ref is unsure. So when this flashed up on the screen to give Wigan the game, it angered me, basically we had lost the game because a coward was unsure, and didn't want to make a call, despite the fact that the ball was in full view on the camera. I would have much more respect if he had just put try up on the screen, I would have felt robbed still, as it was clear to me - as a unbiased Leeds fan of course - that it wasn't a try.
However, I agree it was a tough call. But Phil Bentham can not use the same excuse for the string of errors he made that swung the game towards Wigan. Here is a list:
1. At the end of the first half, he failed to sin-bin a Wigan player for a cheap high shot on Bishop, after he had chipped ahead.
2. More crucially, he missed a forward pass that led to Wigan's first try in the second half. This is a recurring nightmare for Leeds, as it was a try from a forward pass that had handed victory to Wigan at the DW stadium earlier in the season.
3. He somehow gave Wigan head and feed at the scrum that lead to Wigan's last try. The ball had clearly hit the Wigan player before going into touch. Bentham could have even gone to the screen to learn how to restart the game. Instead he happily handed Wigan the ball.
This leads me to the last post, the one I'm writing now. The truth lies somewhere in between all of the above. Before the game we would have taken the final score, we had been told by everybody in the press that Wigan would win by at least 20 points. And after going 16-0 down, they were getting ready to write that story. Instead we got a great game of rugby, where the result was in doubt right till the last 3 minutes. We also got the rough end of all the key decisions by the ref but at the end of the day you cannot gift any team a 16-0 lead and expect to win. Sure we were robbed but ultimately not by the refs, but by ourselves. If we had played the full 80 minutes we would have won the game. If the ref had made the right calls, we might have won. That's the difference.
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