Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith has pointed the finger at the NRL referees for a string of controversial incidents in their 34-14 defeat at the hands of St George Illawarra on Sunday.
The Dragons confirmed their status as the NRL premiership favourites as they maintained their footing at the top of the ladder with an impressive win over the premiers in front of 19,173 fans at Jubilee Oval.
While coach Craig Bellamy admitted his side had bigger problems than the referees and never claimed the Storm were robbed of the chance to win the contest, they were still left scratching their heads.
With the Dragons up 10-4 heading into the break, Josh Addo-Carr was denied in strange circumstances.
The star Melbourne winger crossed for what appeared to be his double, only for the play to be called back because of a penalty against the Dragons in the play-the-ball.
League great Braith Anasta called it “diabolical” and “one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen in a game” on the Fox League broadcast while Smith queried why play wasn’t allowed to go on.
“They said there was a penalty by the defence as the play-the-ball happened and they needed to make a decision there,” Smtih said.
“I see penalties all the time that have to be given to an attacking team and they let the play roll on.
“It was a strange one. It was a really really strange one today.”
Both Storm mentor Craig Bellamy and Dragons coach Paul McGregor said the referees got it right by the letter of the law.
“It was a ruck penalty and they had to bring it back to the mark,” McGregor said.
“I was thankful they did bring it back to the mark.”
To rub salt into the Storm’s wounds, another Widdop penalty gave the Dragons a 12-4 advantage at the break and from there the home side took the match by the scruff of the neck.
The Dragons extended their lead in controversial circumstances when Cameron McInnes dived over in the 42nd minute.
Smith went down clutching at his groin after it appeared he was hit by Jeremy Latimore in the play-the-ball with McInnes diving through the hole left by the Storm skipper.
Asked if he’d been intentionally hit, Smith said: “Well I thought I was in a position in the tackle where I can’t really get caught up in any stray elbows and knee.”
Pressed on whether being hit cost his side a try, Smith said: “I can’t ever remember falling off a tackle in that position that close to the tryline. Don’t think I ever have in my entire career.”
And when Tim Lafai produced a spectacular put down in the left corner in the 47th minute, the Dragons were up 24-4 and the Storm’s coffin had been nailed shut.
Euan Aitken – who once again made a compelling case for a NSW call-up – got his double in the 65th to seal the result.