St Helens coach Nathan Brown stands by criticism of referee in win over Wigan

By Fraser Dainton.   Last Updated: 30/06/14 10:32pm

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Nathan Brown; The St Helens coach was not happy with referee Phil Bentham following Saints' win over Wigan.

Nathan Brown; The St Helens coach was not happy with referee Phil Bentham following Saints' win over Wigan.

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Sky Sports News’ Frasier Dainton reports from St Helens following Friday's tense 16-12 win over local rivals Wigan.

It was always going to be an emotional night - Wigan v Saints derbies usually are.

But having won a thrilling encounter, no-one expected visiting coach Nathan Brown’s reaction, as he tore strips off referee Phil Bentham and opposition coach Shaun Wane.

“I thought it was a super effort from the guys to play such a good team but I thought the officiating of the game was horrible,” Brown said following the victory which put Saints top of the Super League.

“I thought Phil Bentham had an absolute shocking performance. Waney has been whinging for the last two months and we cop it today.

“We never ring Jon Sharp (Match Officials Director), we don't complain after any game, and then you get a performance like that because other coaches are putting the referees under pressure.”

And so the blue touch-paper was lit.

On hearing what was said, Wane replied "That's absolute garbage, that's all I want to say about that. It’s just disgraceful that he comes out with stuff like that.”

Three days later, as I arrive at St Helens’ training  ground, I wonder whether Brown will be just as forthright, or if the possibility of sanctions from the game’s governing body will have tempered his view.

Not a bit of it.

“I’ve watched the game since, and I’ve asked people from other clubs to watch it to make sure I’m not being one-eyed, and there’s not a person out there that thought that I was wrong,” the Saints coach said.

“Did Phil (Bentham) deliberately do it? No, I don’t think he did.

“That doesn’t mean I have to sit there and accept it as someone representing St Helens, when we’ve never made a complaint about the referee all year.”

The issue of refereeing standards - is a thorny one. Officials have been under scrutiny this season, variously accused of confusion over the obstruction rule, and too often going to the video referee during televised games, among other gripes.

Brown appreciates the pressure they are under, admitting: ”Refereeing is a horrible job.

“It’s like being Prime Minister - you’ve got a section of people that like you - generally the people that win, and then you have a section who dislike you when they lose.

“Phil’s one of the top referees in the game, there’s no doubt about that.

“The other night he was a bit off-beat for whatever reason - as players are, as coaches are - we’re not all perfect. You probably won’t hear me complain for a long time now.”

The good news is it seems relations between the two coaches have been repaired, as Brown revealed they have spoken since Friday.

“My comments weren’t personal about Waney at all,” the Australian native stressed.

“The last thing I’m ever going to do is fall out with an opposition coach over a game of Rugby League.

“Coming in to the game I was concerned we might be on the end of some treatment because maybe Wigan have had some calls go against them in the past.

“I thought we got the raw end of the stick the other night, but it’s just two coaches doing the best for their clubs.”

The RFL say they are looking in to Brown’s Friday night comments as a matter of routine.

Whatever the outcome, the debate on whether coaches should be free to say what they feel - or whether they should keep quiet - will rumble on.  

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