‘Murdered by the Bunker’: NRL world erupts over controversial Manly try, Tolatau Koula knock on

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Some days in rugby league, everything goes your way.

For Manly against the three-time defending premier Panthers, Saturday was one of those days in front of a massive crowd at 4 Pines Park.

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Celebrating captain Daly Cherry-Evans’ record breaking 310th NRL match as he became the most capped Sea Eagle of all-time — Steve Menzies played his whole career at the club but had 69 of his 349 matches were for the Northern Eagles — the Sea Eagles ran away with an impressive 32-18 win.

But the side were assisted by the footy gods, who smiled on Manly with one controversial call in particular that gave the side a 14-6 lead at the break.

With six minutes remaining before halftime, the Panthers were attacking the Sea Eagles’ line when a Dylan Edwards pass was knocked down by Manly’s Tommy Talau.

The ball went to Tolu Koula, who scooped up the ball and raced away to score a try.

Although the commentators were convinced Talau looked guilty and there was no way it wouldn’t have been called back, referee Todd Smith awarded the try.

“Todd Smith jogs over, and he’s calling it a try, wow. It is a four-pointer, it’s going to come down to a replay,” commentator Dan Ginnane said.

“That’s a knock on, I don’t understand how Todd Smith has let that play on,” Corey Parker said.

“Probably smart from Todd Smith to let this play out but I think we all thought he was going to say no try … hang on, are they going to say lost backward?” Ginnane said.

Incredibly, the Bunker confirmed the try in a moment that left fans believing the game had truly gone mad.

Ginnane said it was a lesson for players to “play to the whistle”, calling the decision “high drama”.

“Of course it’s a knock on,” Ginnane added.

“We see it every day, the minute that ball goes down they say knock on, this time it goes upstairs, Todd Smith gives it a try … and they come up with try,” Parker said.

Fans were bewildered by the decision.

The Former Legend X account posted: “Rugby league died today. It was murdered by the Bunker.”

Western Weekender managing editor Troy Dodds commented: “That is an extraordinary call. Crazy.”

Sky News producer Thomas Costigan said: “I’m sorry but how is that allowed to be a try? Todd Smith and the Bunker official are on something else. What a joke.”

7News North Coast chief of staff Paul Jobber said: “Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – watches that replay once and all come to the same conclusion. It’s no try.

“Yet somehow, some way, the bunker and Todd Smith find a way to award it.”

There were also several fans who claimed it was knocked backwards but most footy fans — unless of course it’s against your team — would accept that kind of incident as a knock on.

While it may have been a big moment in the match that gave the Sea Eagles the edge, the side outplayed the Panthers, who conceded more than 30 points for just the sixth time since round 11, 2019.

Cherry-Evans was the star for the Sea Eagles in his milestone match with a try, a try assist and a line break assist in an excellent match.

Speaking after the match, Cherry-Evans said the side would celebrate the victory well.

“When you play in milestone games, you’re really just hoping you get the win so you can celebrate with your friends and family and teammates,” he said.

“We focused on that this week, and it worked, it paid off.”