Referee Ben Cummins apologised to Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson for a misunderstanding that contributed to a try scored by his South Sydney Rabbitohs captain Greg Inglis in their controversial 20-16 loss at ANZ Stadium.
With the Bulldogs forced into a reshuffle after fullback Moses Mbye was forced from the field following a sickening head clash with Rabbitohs winger George Jennings in the fifth minute, Jackson switched from the second row to right centre for the remainder of the match.
However, Cummins appeared to forget where Jackson was playing after he had called him to the opposite side of the field to issue a general warning to the Bulldogs players following three consecutive penalties on their try line.
After speaking to Jackson, Cumminssignalled for the Rabbitohs to re-start the game and the Bulldogs forward was forced to race 45metres across the field asSouths moved the ball wide to Inglis, whoswivelled out of an attempted tackle to score his first try of the season in the 35th minute.
"I got there in the end but missed the tackle," Jackson said afterwards. "I probably should have made the tackle but I would like to have been set when they tapped the ball.
“He blew the try and I went over to talk to him. I think it was after that that he realised what had happened. I was playing out in the centres and that is exactly where they went. He basically owned up to the fact that he had made a mistake."
After Jackson explained what had happened, Cummins apologised. "I didn't realise, I am sorry about that," he said.
"They scored a try," protested Jackson again, but there was nothing the referee could do expect repeat: "I didn't realise."
The incident highlighted the frustration felt by all at ANZ Stadium for the match, including fans in the 32,471 crowd, who had to endure 24 penalties and 21 errors by the two teams.
There was even a scrum penalty, while star Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess was placed on report by the bunker for allegedly raising his forearm as he came into contact with Bulldogs two-try star Josh Morris while running the ball from his own line.
On three occasions, Cummins issued warnings to the Bulldogs for repeated infringements while defending their line. The Rabbitohs were also guilty of the same ploy.
Of the 14 penalties conceded by the Bulldogs, six were for offside offences and another five were for play-the-ball infringements.
The Rabbitohs were penalised 10 times, including four play-the-ball infringements and three offside offences.
Combined with 13 Rabbitohs errors and eight committed by the Bulldogs, the 24 penalties contributed to a stop-start match in which neither team was able to assert control.
"It obviously slows the game down a lot and it is hard to get momentum," Jackson said. "We wanted to keep the ball in play and try to tire out the other team but it is hard when there are so many penalties, and particularly when all of the penalties are against us
“I just want to say I don't blame him [Cummins] at all for the loss. We had plenty of opportunities to win that game and we turned over a hell of a lot of ball in the last 10 or 15 minutes on our try line."
Both teams had cause to complain about refereeing calls but they evened themselves out, with the Rabbitohs earning a penalty just before Inglis' try when John Sutton appeared to lose the ball while trying to play it but not receiving one shortly afterward when Dane Gagai had the ball stripped.
Trailing 14-6 at halftime, the Rabbitohs looked pedestrian in attack but they stuck to their plan and were rewarded late in the match when Hymel Hunt and Cameron Murray each scored tries in the final five minutes to snatch an unlikely win.
"We had our opportunities to win that game with everything that went against us - Moses went down in the first five minutes and he couldn't come back, Aiden Tolman was gone in the first half, the mounting penalty count against us - but we turned over too much ball," Bulldogs coach Dean Pay said.
Tolman is in doubt for Thursday night's clash with Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium after limping from the field with what was initially diagnosed as a syndesmosis injury but Pay said it was hoped Mbye had not suffered any facial fractures.