Of course Ashley Klein got it right with Felise Kaufusi sin bin

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Of course Ashley Klein got it right with Felise Kaufusi sin bin


Poor old Ashley Klein. Even when he’s right, he gets blasted from all corners for getting it wrong. So rugby league.

Klein stands accused of ruining Origin II after dispatching Queensland veteran Felise Kaufusi to the sin bin just before half-time.

It was a telling call: the Blues scored one try with him off the field, and playing a man down sucked so much petrol out of the Maroons they were running on fumes for the last 20 minutes.

But it was the correct call. You only need to run a discerning eye over the final five minutes of the first half to understand why. Kaufusi, you’ll see, held the enormous head of Junior Paulo between his shins as the Blues prop tried to play the ball.

Let’s start, though, with Maroons hooker Harry Grant, a terrier out of dummy half in attack but also Cameron Smith-esque when slowing down the tackle in defence. Like all those from the Storm, he knows how to hold on just long enough to delay the play-the-ball but not long enough to be penalised.

Not always, though. In the 36th minute, Klein ruled Grant had held down Blues captain James Tedesco a fraction too long and ordered a set restart. It was a 50-50 call that went the Blues’ way.

Felise Kaufusi reacts to his sin-binning.

Felise Kaufusi reacts to his sin-binning.Credit:Getty

Ten seconds later, NSW were awarded another six again after Klein deemed the Queenslanders were offside. This call was completely justified. The Maroons have been doing it all series. They did it in Sydney with impunity, and did it for much of the first half in Perth.

In the next set, Klein could’ve pinged them on two more occasions as the first defender off the ruck raced up and applied pressure to Blues halfback Nathan Cleary.


On the last tackle, Cleary kicked across field looking for winger Daniel Tupou, who collided with Maroons centre Valentine Holmes while launching himself at the ball.

Klein penalised Holmes for an “escort” on the advice of the Bunker, and it was questioned by Nine commentator Andrew Johns. Replays, though, clearly show Holmes looking at Tupou before backing into his running line and getting in his way.

Felise Kaufusi squeezes Junior Paulo’s head between his legs as Harry Grant lies on the NSW prop.

Felise Kaufusi squeezes Junior Paulo’s head between his legs as Harry Grant lies on the NSW prop.Credit:Nine

In the next set, Klein again restarted the tackle count for an offside infringement as Paulo charged at the line, running straight over the top of Kalyn Ponga.

The try was coming and Kaufusi knew it. One of the best wrestlers in the game, he stood at marker and subtly leaned in on Paulo’s head as the Blues big man writhed on the ground wanting a quick play-the-ball.

The problem for Paulo was he had Jai Arrow and Grant lounging on his back, and his head jammed somehow between Kaufusi’s legs. Kaufusi then came down over the top of Paulo for a second and third effort with his torso. Klein blew the penalty and marched him.

Nine’s Phil Gould said in commentary there shouldn’t be sin bins in Origin — but what other choice did Klein have in these circumstances?

Kaufusi’s actions, following three set-restarts in three minutes, were the very definition of a professional foul. Why have the rule if you’re not going to enforce it?

Oh that’s right ... Origin. Origin.

Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans blew up like a schoolkid. I mean, this was Origin!

“That’s at least three ruck penalties,” Klein said. “And an escort penalty.”

“They’re all different!” Cherry-Evans screeched. “They’re all different!”

“There were a lot in a very, very short space of time,” Klein said. “It’s not acceptable.”

“As long as it’s both ways,” Cherry-Evans chirped, before being waved away.

Rugby league has twisted itself in knots recently over interpretations and rule changes. You sense referees are as confused as fans.


There is an added layer of confusion for Origin referees, who are expected to use a strong hand with cunning, manipulative players but also play such a minor role that we’re not talking about them the following day.

On that premise, they simply cannot win. Don’t enforce the rules, get bagged. Enforce the rules, get bagged again.

Set restarts for ruck and offside infringements were introduced to speed up the game — to combat the dreaded wrestle — so why should Origin be any different?

As for the conspiracy that NSW coach Brad Fittler got his way after whinging about Klein to the mothership after game one, that doesn’t really line up, either.

Fittler complained to NRL referees boss Jared Maxwell before the first game and it didn’t seem to help. Before game two, he publicly declared Grant Atkins a better referee than Klein. That’s hardly the actions of someone trying to curry favour from the whistleblowers.

The test for Klein comes on July 13 for the decider at Suncorp Stadium. Can he be an Origin referee and enforce the rules? Good luck with that.

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