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The Sydney Morning Herald

Try, try and try again, but Kiwis denied by ref

Date: 14/05/1997
Words: 583
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 50
NSW 20


Winger Sean Hoppe claimed New Zealand were robbed of a chance to make the tri-series final when his last-gasp try against NSW was ruled offside at Bruce Stadium last night.

In a heart-stopping finish to a game which New Zealand coach Graeme Norton said was one-tenth the intensity of last Friday's clash with Queensland, Hoppe scored from a bomb hoisted by five-eighth Gene Ngamu as the siren sounded.

The try would have given Ngamu a wide shot at goal and a chance of burdening Super League with the unenviable task of promoting a NSW-New Zealand final at Brisbane's ANZ Stadium next Monday. NSW will now meet the Maroons, as if according to script.

"It was a try, I've got no doubt about it," Hoppe said. "I can't believe they didn't even go for the video replay - isn't that what it's for? After all that hard work, that happens to us. I've never had anything like that happen to me before.

"It's just really disappointing. Everyone I talk to who has seen the replay says I was onside."

Referee Steve Clark told reporters he called Hoppe offside on the advice of touch judge Jim Neal, who spoke to him via his headset.

NSW captain Laurie Daley said: "The ref shouted out: 'Stay out of it, Sean, you're offside', but obviously Sean didn't." Hoppe said he didn't hear any call.

"I had a try disallowed earlier in the second half and I thought they made the right decision then," he said. "I don't understand why they didn't do that (call on the video umpire) again."

Super League operations manager Graham Annesley will decide whether Neal was right or the outcome of a major representative fixture was affected by his error. It seems certain he will find the latter.

New Zealand captain Stephen Kearney, having seen his side miss out on a final berth in its first year of "interstate" football, flew into a rage after Clark awarded NSW a penalty.

"I said some things to the ref I now regret," Kearney said. "It's a pretty disappointing way to lose, and it was just a spur of the moment thing.

"It's no use crying over spilt milk," Kearney said. "It's over."

Clark accepted the apology, although he said he had not heard the comments. He said it was "debatable" whether Super League policy allowed video referee Jack Danzey to determine whether Hoppe had been onside.

"The policy is that the video referee adjudicates on the actual act of scoring the try," he said.

New Zealand needed to win to qualify for the final and were on the right track when centre Ruben Wiki scored after just four minutes.

It took 14 minutes for the Blues to reply, with Simon Gillies backing up to score the first of a pair.

In the end, Gillies, Wiki and Blues winger Ken Nagas notched two tries each. Nagas's were long-range efforts, the Canberra flier clearing away with blinding acceleration.

When Nagas scored with 19 minutes remaining and centre Ryan Girdler converted for 20-11, the Blues looked to have safely expelled the newcomers from the tournament.

But then Hoppe had his first try disallowed when he slid into touch and scrambled over the line, and Wiki also failed to get the ball down after crossing in the last few minutes.

The Blues lost forwards Brad Clyde (broken nose) and David Furner (concussion) in the first half but they both returned after the break to play important roles.

NSW coach Tim Sheens said he hoped to announce a side for the final on Saturday morning, after this weekend's sole Super League club match, between Hunter and Penrith at Breakers Stadium on Friday night.

Sheens said he was unhappy with Clark's interpretation of the play-the-ball rules and would speak to Annesley on the issue before the final.

And Nagas used disarming frankness at the media conference when asked about tactics.

"We knew they were pretty ordinary up the middle," he said.

"That'll be your last press conference," Gillies responded.

NSW 20 (K Nagas 2, S Gillies 2 tries; R Girdler 2 goals) bt NEW ZEALAND 15 (R Wiki 2 tries; G Ngamu 3 goals, field goal) at Bruce Stadium. Crowd: 13,836. Referee: S Clark.

PAGE 47: O'Neill's last chance; PAGE 48: Tim Sheens column.

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