Keiron Cunningham admits he was left “speechless” by the performance of referee James Child (pictured right) during his side’s 33-26 loss at Catalans Dragons.
The St Helens boss was careful to point out his side could have done more to secure the result at the Stade Gilbert Brutus last Saturday, but blasted the official over a number of instances which prompted him to speak to head of match officials Jon Sharpe.
I think everyone who watched the game on TV will be just as frustrated as I was with what was going on but we still should have won the gameSaints Keiron Cunningham
“I was speechless after that game with the performance of a certain individual in the middle,” he said.
“What I don’t understand – and I’ve said this to Jon Sharpe – I don’t understand how, as a club, if any of my players had a bearing on a game or changed the outcome of a game, then generally we’ll be getting about four or five weeks. They’d be held responsible for what they are doing.”
With a tight Super League table and promotion and relegation back on the table, Cunningham pointed out the fact livelihoods depend on results, and called for the RFL to invest in match officials, so that people at clubs can be in control of their own destiny.
“We hear these records amount of money the rugby league are making each year,” he said.
“We talk about changing substitutions, we talked about reducing them from 10 to six - why don’t we just clear up what’s going on out on the field first?
“I’ve never seen a season more fraught with the referees being the point of a game.
“They have to invest money into the refereeing. It’s quite easy for me to be to be cynical but it’s a results business and I have a group of staff who work for me and this is our livelihood.”
With Saints leading against Catalans at half-time after a rocky opening, Cunningham was disappointed his players couldn’t wrestle a win away from their trip to Perpignan.
The defeat meant Saints surrendered their place of second in the table to Wigan and Cunningham thought his men should have maintained their control.
“I think everyone who watched the game on TV will be just as frustrated as I was with what was going on but we still should have won the game,” he said.
“I’ll stick by that – even though we got the rough end of everything we still should have won the game. When we got to 26-all we were in control of the game.
We were pretty much in control of the game I felt - after we got that initial 20-minute period out of the way.
“I was never thought we were going to lose the game after that.”
But moot points for the Saints boss included the game being stopped for injuries to Catalans players where there was no concussion and Child halting proceedings to fix his microphone when Cunningham felt his side were on a roll.
“(Olivier) Elima’s laying on the floor with a bang to his sternum and he (Child) stops the game for a minute and 20 seconds and he decides to fix his mic.”
He continued: “That’s what Catalans do. Whenever you get a quick ruck, there’s a player on the floor.
“The rules say if someone’s got a head injury we stop the game, otherwise we play on.”
Cunningham is worried about how the way matches are currently refereed could affect the competition.
With tactics like cannonball tackles being a hot topic in recent years, and Cunningham citing tactics from Catalans to slow the game down, he fears coaches will take the law into their own hands.
“You’re almost backing coaches into corners,” he said.
“I’m massive for player welfare and I can’t for the life of me coach my players to intentionally go out and hurt people.
“When you see other teams doing it you think they are obviously getting an advantage doing it.”