Tom Trbojevic's costly mistake as NRL greats get obstruction call completely wrong

Manly only had themselves to blame for their controversial loss to Parramatta.

Parramatta got the chocolates over Manly on Sunday in a controversial NRL clash, with a disallowed try to the Sea Eagles proving a major talking point. But there was another play that went largely unnoticed and cost Manly a try in the first half.

With the Sea Eagles up 14-12 in the 33rd minute, the Eels had the ball through a mid-field scrum. In a big blunder that seemingly went unnoticed at the time, fullback Tom Trbojevic packed into the scrum at lock and wasn't able to get across in time to prevent Blaze Talagi from scoring in the corner.

The fullback would normally linger somewhere in or behind the defensive line during a mid-field scrum, but Trbojevic decided to pack in at the back of it. He desperately sprinted across field as the Eels shifted the ball wide, but got to Talagi too late to prevent him from scoring a pivotal four-pointer that gave Parramatta the lead.

Tom Trbojevic, pictured here packing into the scrum at lock.
Tom Trbojevic packed into the scrum at lock and wasn't able to prevent a Parramatta try on the ensuing play. Image: Channel 9

The tactic raised a few eyebrows among fans and pundits, with Dean Ritchie of The Daily Telegraph writing: "He is among the best fullbacks in the game but Tom Trbojevic was caught out badly. We’re not sure why Trbojevic wasn’t in the defensive line. Players move everywhere around a footy field these days and it’s not the first time an outside back has packed into a scrum, but this was a costly defensive blunder."

Why everyone is wrong about controversial obstruction call

The biggest talking point from the game was the decision to take a try off Manly in the 64th minute for obstruction. Trbojevic sliced through the Eels' defensive line and set up a try for Tolu Kuola with a questionable pass, but the Bunker intervened and found that Jake Trbojevic had broken the rules in the lead-up.

Jake stopped in the defensive line and denied Luca Moretti the chance to slide across and tackle Tom. Fans and commentators were left seething over the call, with many pointing out that Moretti was probably no chance of stopping Tom anyway.

But guess what? That doesn't matter because Jake broke the rules in a textbook example of an obstruction. Jake was well in front of the ball and blatantly stopped right in the defensive line - two of the key indicators when deciding an obstruction.

Had Jake pulled up before the defensive line or continued running straight through it untouched, his actions would have been perfectly legal and no-one would be talking about it. Plus the last pass from Tom to Kuola was very suspect anyway.


But true to form, the likes of Phil Gould ignored the rules and expressed their anger at the 'terrible' Bunker decision. "There's no way he ever makes the tackle," Gould said on Channel 9. "That's a terrible decision.

"He was never going to chase - he had no intention of chasing. He was cuddling Trbojevic. He had no intention of chasing. The black and white nature of their interpretations is honestly childish sometimes and it's so frustrating. Moretti had no intention of chasing."

Andrew Voss said on Fox League: “That is not obstruction, he has clocked off and given up." While Manly coach Anthony Seibold said post-game: "I'm biased, so I thought it was a try. Again, it wasn't ruled a try and we had to keep fighting - we scored a try after that.

"I need to be really careful what I say here, but I think the management of the game changed a little bit there after [Manly led] 14-0. I think they started to get some calls their way … they had a fair bit of possession and we were a little bit gassed there.

"I'm not sure why it changed, but some of the interpretations around the ruck did. I'm not gonna go into it, but it seemed like the management of the game changed. You've got to adjust to that and the best teams can do that."

Manly players, pictured here during their loss to Parramatta.
Manly players look on during their loss to Parramatta.

Sorry Gould, Voss and Seibold but you're all wrong and the Bunker made the correct decision according to the rule book. Manly were actually extremely lucky the scoreline was only 28-24, with Daly Cherry-Evans appearing to get away with a knock-on in the lead-up to a Sea Eagles try in the first half.