The Sharks post a 28-24 win over Canberra as the NRL admits to an officiating error, while the Broncos bring up a half-century of points to trash the Panthers 50-18.
Sharks beat Raiders after touch judge bungle
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has launched a measured attack at the NRL as the league admitted a touch judge made a crucial error during the Raiders' controversial 28-24 loss to Cronulla.
After the Sharks led 22-6 at the break in the Shire on Friday night, Canberra centre Joey Leilua crossed twice to narrow the gap to four points early in the second half before the Raiders were dealt one of the most farcical calls of the season.
As Cronulla spread the ball right, the ball brushed past the upper arm of centre Jesse Ramien, which appeared to prompt touch judge Rick MacFarlane to raise his flag despite no one crossing the sideline.
Referee Gerard Sutton put the whistle to his mouth – at which point the Raiders' defence stopped – but did not blow it, allowing Sione Katoa to cross and make it 28-18.
The play was sent to the bunker as a no-try for a possible Ramien knock-on, but none was found and the on-field call was overturned.
"I just criticised my players in there for not playing the whistle. Then they tell me the flag went up and the referee called knock-on," Stuart said.
"So what are they meant to do?"
Canberra captain Josh Hodgson said it was a natural reaction for the players to stop in the line.
"You saw the touchie's flag. He put it up and half put it down … as soon as you see a flag you stop on your feet," Hodgson said.
"We were all just waiting for the whistle and they ran through and scored.
"He called no try, and I don't think there was definitive proof he didn't touch it."
The NRL admitted after the game the touch judge had erred and the bunker's decision would also be the subject of an investigation.
"It wasn't out. The touchie shouldn't have put his flag up," an NRL spokesman said.
"The subjective part about bunker decisions around the review (of the try) is going to be reviewed."
Raiders full-back Brad Abbey was denied a try with 10 minutes to go as Canberra looked to mount a comeback despite the ball appearing to have been thrown backwards before Jordan Rapana later crossed.
"I only saw the replay once and to me it went well behind a lot of passes that have been let go this year," Stuart said as he questioned a number of the NRL's crackdowns.
The result provisionally moves the Sharks into the top four, while Canberra's season is on the line, with three wins out of the eight with five games against finals-bound teams to come.
Valentine Holmes and Wade Graham were both superb for the Sharks as they scored first-half tries but coach Shane Flanagan conceded fortune favoured his side.
"You need a bit of luck in games, and we might've got some there," Flanagan said.
Broncos put on 50 points to hammer Panthers
Tevita Pangai Junior has starred as Brisbane provided a glimpse into the future against a helpless Penrith at Lang Park.
The near-perfect Broncos completed 20 of 21 sets in the first half on Friday night to leap to a 32-0 lead and finish 50-18 victors to all but confirm a finals berth.
Pangai Junior (two tries) was unstoppable in his 31-minute comeback from a hamstring niggle, while Jamayne Isaako, who signed a four-year deal on Thursday, was electric in the number one jersey.
Off-contract Pangai Junior's stocks will only rise after his dominant showing in a week where raw 18-year-old teammate Payne Haas signed a five-year, $3.4 million extension.
But Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett is confident he, along with Matt Lodge and Jaydn Su'A, will remain at Red Hill, with fellow 18-year-old David Fifita in a young core already showing plenty.
Penrith has now lost four of its past five and gone from top-four regulars to equal eighth on wins.
Luckless Canberra's tight 28-24 loss earlier in the night left the Raiders three wins adrift of the Broncos in ninth and left Brisbane level with four teams, including Penrith, on 11 wins.
The hosts scored five tries in a mistake-free first 35 minutes as destructive young back rower Pangai Junior dominated.
The 22-year-old benefited from a neat Sam Thaiday offload before taking five Panthers over for his second as Kodi Nikorima pulled the strings in the background.
The half-back toed a kick through from an Anthony Milford chip that was regathered by a flying James Roberts before Pangai Junior's second and a soft Corey Oates try made it 26-0 in the 23rd minute.
Darius Boyd, playing in the centres for the first time in 10 years, picked up the crumbs when another Milford kick was spilled by a pair of chasing Panthers.
Waqa Blake opened the scoring in the second half for the Panthers before Josh Mansour scored on his NRL return.
But it was only a blip in an otherwise one-sided night as Nikorima's two intercept tries iced the contest.