Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith believes play-acting and gamesmanship is ruining Rugby League, following Friday night’s ill-tempered clash with Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.
Smith said: “It’s not good when it turns into a scuffle. There’s always going to be gamesmanship in sport, where someone thinks they can gain an advantage by falling over or, when taking a bit of a bump, they make more of it. That’s been part of any sport for years.
“But when that turns into a scuffle and the game stops for three minutes while the match officials figure out what happened and if they need to act, it’s not good for the game. The game doesn’t flow.”
Smith was seen to have a half-time confrontation with Dragons’ fullback Sam Tomkins close to the players’ tunnel.
The Leeds coach said he had become concerned at what he saw as Tomkins’ constant challenges to the match official and he added, “It just goes on, and on, and on. Every decision he’s questioned and challenged. I just suggested to him that we should just play footy and see who is the best team.”
Smith also believed that Tomkins had “dived” in a head-clash with Leeds prop Matt Prior during the game.
He added: “I only saw it live; there were a lot of those incidents where people hit the ground trying to win penalties at the end.”
Smith said he had been disappointed with the stop-start nature of recent games and suggested there may be more of a problem with fixtures played in France.
He added: “There were an unbelievable number of stoppages tonight; we’ve been to France four times and it’s been the four slowest games of the year.”
Smith said he was sad to see scenes at the end of the match where referee James Child and his assistants were pelted with plastic glasses and drinks as they left the pitch.
Sky Sports TV presenters were also caught up in the chaos with pitch-side reporters Jenna Brooks and Terry O’Connor having to take evasive action as a variety of objects were thrown from the stands above the players’ tunnel.
Smith added, “It was disappointing; it was a good tough contest in a sudden death game. I thought the referee adjudicated things strongly in the second half. There were some fifty-fifty calls which could have gone both ways, but when the crowd was roaring, he kept refereeing the way he intended, which is good to see.
“It was disappointing at the back end of the game to see things thrown at him and for our players to be treated like that is also disappointing, but no actual harm was done.”
A spokesman for the RFL told League Express: “The incidents will be investigated in the usual way – with the submission of reports from the match commissioner and other officials, which would be followed by a compliance investigation if deemed necessary.
“It is imperative for the sport, as stated in the Respect policy and the Enjoy the Game campaign, that match officials and broadcasters are not subject to threatening or abusive behaviour – and a range of sanctions are available for breaches of these operational rules.”
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