Biting allegation mars England's World Cup win over Lebanon

Bite me: Robbie Farah of Lebanon passes the ball against England. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
Bite me: Robbie Farah of Lebanon passes the ball against England. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Lebanon captain Robbie Farah declined to elaborate on his biting allegation against Jermaine McGillvary as England tendered a World Cup performance Wayne Bennett described as "not good enough".

The Cedars put on a brave display at Allianz Stadium against a side many believe can win the World Cup but the real talking point was South Sydney's Farah levelling the second biting claim of the tournament at Huddersfield's McGillvary just after half-time.

"What's that on my arm – did I bite myself?" Farah shouted at McGillvary as play was stopped in the 45th minute. While the response was inaudible, Farah then said: "It doesn't matter mate, you don't bite, mate."

Referee Ben Thaler summoned ground manager Bob Lanigan, who photographed an alleged bite mark, ordered McGillvary and teammate Elliott Whitehead who were remonstrating with Farah to walk away and placed the matter on report.

"Things happen in a split second on the field and you react," Farah said at the post-match media conference. "I made the complaint on the field and I'll leave it at that.

"I don't think I need to say much else. There was a bit of footage there. It was pretty clear..."

Bizarrely it is the second such allegation of the World Cup. Last Saturday at Port Moresby's Oil Search Stadium, Wales forward Ben Evans claimed he had been bitten by Papua New Guinea prop Wellington Albert.

Evans tried to withdraw the complaint at full-time and even though he was not allowed to do so, in the likely absence of his testimony the match review committee decided against laying a charge.

When Farah was asked if he would do something similar, he said 'nah' before he was cut off by coach Brad Fittler, who said: "It's in the hands of the match review committee now and we'd rather not talk about it."

At the time of the latest incident, Lebanon trailed 22-6. England managed to add only a converted try and a field goal over the ensuing 35 minutes and that clearly left Bennett unimpressed.

"Part of our journey is to be more consistent and it's not good enough," he said. 

"We're not a good enough team where we can turn if off and turn it back on. We've just got to keep it on all the time. We kept it on until half-time and then we lost our way in the second half."

Centre Kallum Watkins had crossed in the ninth minute, with Gareth Widdop converting, and things were going as expected. But when Lebanon lock Nick Kassis successfully chased Farah's grubber kick to score nine minutes later, the chanting, clapping and drumming in the 10,237 crowd went up several octaves.

Five-eighth Mitchell Moses' electrifying run suggested the lead would soon be snatched but he was desperately hauled down and England dominated the period leading up to the break.

McGillvary's 25th-minute try was soft and Ryan Hall looked to have knocked on when he crossed three minutes later, leading to the inevitable questions about both the referee and video referee, Phil Bentham, being English.

Of course, if you are going to draw all match officials from two competitions you can't pick and choose when to take nationality into account. The appointment for this game was therefore perfectly justifiable.

But former Test referee Stuart Cummings has a salient point that the World Cup has an obligation to develop match officials as it does to develop players.

The rest of the rugby league is not as mortally afraid of criticism as League Central and one could mount an argument that rampant howlers would have been a worthwhile price to pay for upholding the global sports norm of referees from neutral countries. By the time the title was decided, a professional New Zealand, Australian or English whistler would be available anyway.

Thaler and Bentham can't be blamed for the result.

Second-rower Ben Currie burst through for a try before half-time and after the tete-a-tete in the second half, big Tom Burgess got into the clear and crossed between the posts. Joe Wehbe posted a well-earned second Cedars try in the final couple of minutes before Widdop added a last-minute field goal.

Bennett dropped James Roby from the bench to give George Williams a run while Stefan Ratchford came in for injured fullback Jonny Lomax (calf). Fittler, meanshile, was confident a Tim Mannah injury was not serious.


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