NRL fans left fuming over 'joke' scenes as Magic Round kicks off in controversial fashion

The Bulldogs and Sea Eagles both appeared to be dudded by late calls against the Raiders and Broncos.

The Bulldogs and Sea Eagles were both crying foul after the opening night of the NRL's Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium, with some questionable refereeing decisions again coming under scrutiny. The Raiders survived having two players sin-binned to beat the Bulldogs 24-20, before the Broncos delighted the home crowd with a 13-12 win over Manly.

But both games were marred by refereeing controversies, with the Bulldogs appearing to be dudded late in the game. Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii were both sent to the sin-bin before half-time, which left Canberra with just 11 players.

They did remarkably well to only concede one try in that period, but many believed Rapana should be been binned a second time with just five minutes remaining. After Reed Mahoney made a break and came to Rapana at fullback, the Bulldogs hooker kicked ahead and tried to run past Rapana.

The Bulldogs and Sea Eagles, pictured here after controversial late calls in NRL Magic Round.
The Bulldogs and Sea Eagles both thought they were hard done by with controversial late calls in NRL Magic Round. Image: Getty

But the Raiders fullback stuck out his leg and looked to blatantly trip Mahoney as he ran past - which many thought was a clear professional foul. Hudson Young also tackled Matt Burton without the ball as they chased the ensuing kick, but the Bunker deemed it not to be illegal.

Jordan Rapana, pictured here tripping Reed Mahoney.
Jordan Rapana tripped Reed Mahoney but wasn't sent to the sin-bin.


The Raiders were penalised for Rapana's trip, but fans and commentators blew up that he was allowed to stay on the field. The Bulldogs should have been given the opportunity to attack against 12 men, but the full-strength Raiders held on for a four-point victory.

“He is lucky to still be on the field,” Greg Alexander said of Rapana on Fox Sports. Andrew Voss added: “It’s a try scoring situation.”

Journalist Martin Gabor wrote on social media: “The decision to not send Rapana off/to the sin bin beggars belief. Not only does he have form with this stuff, but the NRL literally admitted on Monday that trips like that need to be punished more severely after (Isaiah) Papali’i was allowed to stay on the field.”

And it wasn't the only controversial call of the night. Manly were left fuming over a high tackle penalty that went against them in the dying stages of their loss to the Broncos which set up Jock Madden's match-winning field goal. Jaxson Paulo was pinged for high contact when Deine Mariner was lying on the ground near the sideline, but replays showed there was very minimal contact with the head.

Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold bemoaned the call after the game, although Manly were only level at that stage because of a blatant forward pass that was missed when Reuben Garrick scored their first try. "I thought the last penalty - let’s be fair dinkum - it’s one of the softest penalties ever," Seibold said post-game.

“So it’s tackle five the guy was on the floor, potentially a knock-on, I think it was Jaxson Paulo who dived on him. I mean, he stays down as he just looked around there and he wasn’t so it was tough. But ultimately they were too good and they were able to take their chance.”

Mal Meninga said on Fox Sports: “That penalty right at the end of the game was a pretty harsh one. And that’s when Jock Madden obviously kicked the field goal off the back of that. I actually thought Manly should have won the game.”