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Parramatta Eels defeat Titans, captain’s challenge loophole

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The Gold Coast Titans have caused some controversy after exploiting a loophole on two occasions to exercise their captain’s challenge during their 26-20 loss to the Eels on Saturday night.

The Titans on two occasions deliberately gave away a penalty so they could access their ability to use their captain’s challenge.

During the second half while trailing 20-0 at the time, Titans pair Erin Clark and Toby Sexton refused to let go of Reed Mahoney after the Eels hooker pounced on a loose ball.

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Clark and Sexton made that decision to give their side a chance to use their captain’s challenge, to determine whether Mahoney knocked on Jarrod Wallace’s wayward offload in the lead-up.

While referee Peter Gough informed the Titans that they were risking a player going to the sin bin for the deliberate penalty, the eventual successful captain’s challenge wiped away that scenario, with possession going back to the Gold Coast.

This was despite NRL head of football Graham Annesley saying earlier this week that “a team can’t try to create a stoppage in order to challenge something that has previously been missed.”

In the second incident just moments later, while trailing by 16, Jamayne Isaako and Patrick Herbert held Mitch Rein down in the ruck, who too had just taken possession of a loose ball.

That deliberate penalty allowed the Titans to challenge whether Dylan Brown held back Herbert from taking possession of Isaako’s offload in back play, with that challenge also proving successful.

“It’s the second time we’ve seen this, no apology, this is not the rugby league I follow,” said Fox League commentator Andrew Voss.

NRL great Michael Ennis added: “It’s not a good look this, for the game.”

“That’s what the officials are there for, that’s what the touch judges are there for. If the referee doesn’t see it, that’s what the touch judge is there. Let him be the judge of it, don’t keep stopping the game.”

After the match, Eels skipper Clint Gutherson said he was confused with what the rules are.

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“I was watching a game last week and the referee did say you could only challenge what the penalty was for, that is the last play on the field,” Gutherson told reporters.

“He (Peter Gough) didn’t [tonight] communicate what the go was, obviously we moved on and played the game. I would like some clarity going into the next few weeks.”

Titans coach Justin Holbrook also spoke on the moments after the game.

“The idea of it is you’re using it if you think the call is wrong, that’s why you do use your captain’s challenge… we felt we didn’t get what should’ve happened.”

Meanwhile, the match came down to a thrilling final 30 minutes after the Titans scored four of the last five tries.

The Eels held on despite prop Junior Paulo copping a sin bin at the 62nd-minute for a high shot.

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