Ashley Klein was overheard apologising to James Tedesco after the referee made a horrendous blunder in the Roosters' NRL semi-final loss to the Storm on Friday night. Melbourne scored a thrilling 18-13 victory to end the Roosters' season after William Warbrick scored in the final minute off a Cameron Munster cross-field kick.
However Roosters fans have every right to feel hard done by after Melbourne's second try came off the back of a terrible refereeing blunder. With the Roosters on the attack in the first half, Klein missed a blatant knock-on from Harry Grant and allowed play to continue.
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Grant was trying to regather the ball after it had been batted back by a Roosters player, but failed to collect it cleanly before it hit the ground. Inexplicably, Klein ruled that Grant had caught the ball without knocking on, before giving the Storm a penalty in the ensuing set to march them downfield.
To make matters worse, the Storm scored in the very next set as Marion Seve crashed over to give Melbourne a 10-0 lead. Fans and commentators were left blowing up over the fact Klein missed Grant's knock-on, and the referee was overheard apologising to Roosters captain Tedesco after the try.
“That wasn’t even close!” Tedesco said. "You’ve gotta give us the benefit of the doubt! That was obvious!"
Klein responded: “I understand but I thought he got his arm underneath it. I only call it as I see it, OK? I apologise. I can’t say anything more than that.”
Discussing the incident on Fox Sports, Broncos great Corey Parker was seething. “It’s hard enough to win semi-finals playing within the rules but that right there, Ashley Klein, you can see him there to the left… that is a blatant knock-on every day of the week,” he said.
“Off the back of that they roll down the other end of the field and Marion Seve was able to come up with a try. That is a horrible decision from Ashley Klein, it should never have been made. It should’ve been pulled up, he was right in a good spot.”
Michael Ennis added: “You can give the referee some leeway but that one was blatant. It was right in front of Ashley Klein, he was two or three metres away right in front of where Harry Grant dropped the ball. As Corey said it is such a significant moment, it is so hard to find points in these types of games and it was a big blunder.”
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Phil Rothfield labelled Klein's blunder "disgraceful" and said there's no way he should be handed the grand final refereeing gig. Roosters coach Trent Robinson said after the game: “It was pretty clear it was dropped, it was right there, it hit the ground, what can you do. It was an error then they went down the other end and scored.
“We should have stopped that but it would have been a try-scoring opportunity to us 10 metres out from the line and in finals games they’re always critical. Key moments are critical for both sides and the referee and you’ve got to nail them.”
Tedesco added: “He just said he called it as he saw it but I was 30 metres away and I could see that he dropped it and he was right there. It’s hard when you can’t really have a conversation on the run when you’re at the back, you can’t really stop play and run up. I think it was pretty obvious and everyone saw it that he knocked on.”
Melbourne's win snapped a three-game losing streak in finals games dating back to the 2021 preliminary final. They will now take on the Panthers in a blockbuster grand final qualifier.
Ashley Klein genuinely missed this knock on, bloke is 2ft away and Storm go on to score 👏🏻
This is the finals of our competition, this shirt is unacceptable #NRL #NRLStormRoosters pic.twitter.com/UGmYDPHkT5
— Hynesight (@Hynesight7) September 15, 2023
— Michael Ruffle (@trust_1982) September 15, 2023
How could anyone genuinely defend this as a mistake lmao pic.twitter.com/lCT7G0RuSy
— James (@roosterjamez) September 15, 2023
— John Rheinberger 🇺🇦 (@RheinbergerJohn) September 15, 2023
— Bernie Coen (@berniecoen) September 15, 2023
What a terrible call from Ashley Klein, Grant didn’t even come close to regathering that
— Kyle (@kyle_waller2) September 15, 2023
Storm might be there next week but no way can Klein be. That was a horrible mistake that has now had a massive bearing on this game #NRLFinals
— Luke Bradnam (@LukeBradnam) September 15, 2023
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