Fuming Hasler lashes referee By Andrew Webster May 8, 2006 Wests Tigers 24 Manly 18 WHEN English referee Russell Smith first joined the NRL last year, few could understand what he was saying on account of his thick Yorkshire accent. After yesterday's match between Wests Tigers and Manly at Leichhardt Oval, Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler was questioning if Smith understood the rules of the game at all. The Tigers won 24-18 - and rightly so despite being on the wrong end of some problematic decisions from Smith and video referee Chris Ward. Tigers assistant coach Royce Simmons said he was "embarrassed" for the whistleblower afterwards. Maybe it was a good thing that coach Tim Sheens was being whisked across town for the announcement of the City Origin side. Hasler went further, though, questioning if Smith had cost his players the match and suggested he revisit his old Refereeing 101 textbooks. "Both sides had to endure some very questionable refereeing decisions," Hasler lamented. "That's what it's going to come back to. And that's what the comments [about this game] will all be about. "So much so I'm not sure if he [Smith] knows the rules. That's for both sides." Pressed on whether Smith had cost his side the match, Hasler replied: "There were some moments in there, yeah, for sure." It was uncertain last night if Hasler's remarks would earn him censure from the NRL but they're certain to come under heavy review this morning. NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley told the Herald: "Coaches are allowed to state their views on officials but they can't question their integrity or make abusive or derogatory comments." Hasler walked a fine line but while the ashen-faced coach wouldn't mention specifics, he didn't have to. Everyone knew the crucial, questionable call Manly had every right to howl about came with seven minutes to go and the home side clinging to a 22-18 lead like a life raft. It seemed inevitable: the Sea Eagles were going to steamroll the Tigers at iconic Leichhardt, just as they had done to Parramatta the previous week at the iconic SCG. But then Smith pinged Manly winger Paul Stephenson for an incorrect play-the-ball near their try line. It was 50-50, at best. Tigers fullback Brett Hodgson landed the penalty to extend their lead to six points. While Manly had two more opportunities from two kicks by Sea Eagles halfback Matt Orford to send the game into golden-point time - both expertly defused by winger Daniel Fitzhenry - it made their hearts sink. It was justice. If anyone had the right to complain, it was the home side. In the first half, Manly centre Steve Bell gave his team a 14-10 lead when he scored after what were clearly two knock-ons earlier in the set. The Tigers, through smart play from Scott Prince, Robbie Farah and Hodgson, ensured the Tigers remained a nose ahead for most of the match. Prince was gifted a try eight minutes after the break when Manly centre Steve Matai threw a suicide pass 10 metres from his own line for the premiership-winning captain to score under the posts and give his side a 22-14 lead. Then, with 23 minutes remaining, came a flourish of close decisions on which the game might have swung. Tigers forward Chris Heighington was penalised for a high tackle on Manly replacement Shayne Dunley. As Dunley struggled to get up, video referee Ward made the call for Smith. "What about a penalty for the Hollywood?" asked Farah, who was outstanding yesterday and played himself into possible NSW calculations. Shortly after, Stephenson scored in the corner to bring Manly to within range at 22-18. Simmons shot daggers at Ward from the adjoining coach's box minutes later when Orford wasn't penalised for what looked like a high shot on Jamaal Lolesi. But the real controversy, as far as the punters on the hill were concerned, came with 20 minutes to go. In a frenetic passage of play, Benji Marshall - who came on midway through the first half - scooted down the left touch line to score what should have been the clincher. Instead, Ward ruled that Tigers centre Paul Whatuira had taken out Bell. Replays showed that there are usually stronger shirt pulls on a stripper at a hen's night. "I feel a bit sorry for him, and the rest of his staff," Simmons said of Smith's performance. "They were probably a bit embarrassed, the whole lot of them. From up the top down to the bottom. But that's out of control and we don't want to get fined so we'll leave it at that." Hodgson said: "I'm just proud of everyone in our side for it [the refereeing decisions] to not get over the top of us." Hasler was right: this match will reverberate into the rest of this week for the wrong reasons. A scrap you'd expect at Leichhardt on a Sunday arvo. WESTS TIGERS 24: D Collis, D Fitzhenry, T Payten, S Prince tries; B Hodgson 4 goals. MANLY 18: S Bell, S Menzies, M Monaghan, P Stephenson tries; M Orford goal. Referee: R Smith. Crowd: 20,231 at Leichhardt Oval. BRAIN EXPLOSION Why would Manly's Steve Matai attempt a miracle pass working the ball out from his own tryline in the 48th minute? Scott Prince doesn't know but he was there to score the easiest try. Ever. THEY SAID WHAT? "I'm not sure if he knows the rules." It remains to be seen whether those eight words in assessing referee Russell Smith will cost Manly coach Des Hasler a fine. Cracking quote, though.