Take a bow, James Tamu and Ben Gardiner.
The Tigers’ head coach and interim coach were all class in their post-match press conference after the controversial finish, with even Cowboys coach Todd Payne “arguing” whether his team deserved to win.
“What goes around comes around and we got it tonight,” Payne said, suggesting his side could get the rub off the green after Tamu and Gardiner’s Bunker call that took the high road robbed the last-placed Tigers of a stunning upset over the second-placed Cowboys.
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With the Tigers leading 26-25 and just one second left on the clock, the Cowboys started.
Cowboys winger Kyle Feld ran into Tigers winger Asu Kepaoa and fell to the ground.
Chad Townsend’s captaincy was successful and the Cowboys scored a penalty to win the game 27-26, leaving the rugby league world in disbelief.
Gardiner received a baptism of fire when he stepped in for Brett Kimmorley, who was diagnosed with Covid-19.
But the former schoolteacher took the press conference lightly, making the Tigers’ decision to let him go next season all the more puzzling.
Gardiner finished third in the Tigers’ New South Wales Cup last year before the tournament was cancelled. He was promoted to NRL assistant this year, however foxsports.com.au He is understood to have been told his services will not be required next season.
Perhaps the Tigers will change their minds on his watch to almost pull off an upset of the season.
“It was a moment of euphoria and then of desolation,” Gardiner said of the finale.
“That decision at the end of the game will decide the game. I wasn’t entirely sure why the decision was made.
“My understanding is that when a bunker comes into play or a challenge occurs, there is a carelessness in the game or a breakdown of the game.
“My understanding is that as soon as we had the ball, the game was over and that’s where it should have ended. But you know, at the end of the day, that’s the decision.
“I think we put in a good effort today, we played well, we stood up for the captain who made his 300th game and we asked the lads to do it for us today and they stood up for us.
“We went against one of the top sides and that’s probably the biggest question for us, you know, why don’t we rise to that occasion more often? We’ve got a great opportunity here for Jimmy in his 300th game and we really couldn’t have played any better.
“I’ve been a coach for a long time and you can be upset and you can complain and do all these things but it doesn’t matter.
“Like I said, it’s been a down season, that’s for sure, but I’ll look more at the effort the kids put in today and how they can play the game plan the way we want.
“If we sit on a decision, we will regret it for a long time.
“It’s not my decision to make, but at the end of the day, that’s how rugby league is and you just have to take it and move on.
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Tammu did not let the final result spoil his crucial match.
“The boys put their heads down and like the frustration, I’d love to get the win, but they put their heads down and I said, ‘Keep your heads up boys, I couldn’t ask for more.’ ” he said after the game.
“Of course, get up. As ‘BG’ says, we tested one of the game’s top sides and it seems to be a trend here every week for the past month. We are moving in the right direction,” he said.
Meanwhile, Petain was relieved to miss out on the two points.
“It was an important win for us and while I’m still trying to get my head around it, I’m very happy that we got the two points and moved on,” he said.
“People won’t remember this in two weeks.”
Asked if the Cowboys deserved the win, he said: “Debatable.” But he believes they received a bit of karma for the past calls to them.
“If I look back at the season so far, we had a try last week which was huge,” he added.
“In the 1st round even Hamiso got a try with a few minutes to play and it cost us a game, so I guess what goes around comes around and we got one tonight.”
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Payne Townsend was pressed on whether or not it was right to be able to call a captain’s challenge because the hype hadn’t been blown, but said, “That’s for smarter people than me to do.”
Townsend noted that the touch judge was supportive when he asked to protest.
“I saw the escort so I immediately went to the reef. I think the touch agreed, he looked up and gave the ref a nod and saw what he saw as I saw it.
“He asked me what I was challenging, I said to the assistant, Feldty is on the ground, I think he (Kepaoa) changed the line.
“Like Toddy said, sometimes during the season you get them and sometimes you don’t and we got one tonight.”