Melbourne Storm star Jahrome Hughes has been accused of diving by a number of NRL legends, with the incident the one blot on his report card in an otherwise brilliant performance.
The halfback was one of two Storm players to score a double as Melbourne survived a first-half scare to run out 32-20 winners at AAMI Park against the Brisbane Broncos.
The incident in question came when Broncos winger Corey Oates’ second try of the night was initially disallowed thanks to an obstruction call on Kurt Capewell, who looked to have bowled over Hughes in the lead-up.
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However, the Bunker awarded the try after replays showed Hughes had embellished the contact from Capewell and taken a dive.
The 27-year-old Kiwi playmaker was called out for diving by a number of greats, including legendary halfback Andrew Johns.
"They’re judging that Jahrome Hughes milked it," Johns said on Nine’s NRL coverage.
"I totally agree with the decision, but let’s hope it’s consistent. Capewell goes through and Jahrome Hughes plays up to it.
"He’s playing for the penalty, which isn’t in the spirit of rugby league, you’re taught to compete for everything, he plays for the penalty."
Johns’ view was echoed by Hughes’ former club captain Cameron Smith and Broncos great Darren Lockyer.
"I think the officials got this one right," Smith told Nine’s Macca’s Golden Point.
"It’s actually a smart play from Te Maire (Martin) where he catches the ball inside the lead runner and then he knows that if he continues his run it will be an obstruction for sure, so he gets rid of the ball.
"Jahrome Hughes, he wants a penalty, he’s looking for a penalty. In his mind, he thinks, ‘Well if I hit the turf here it’ll be an obstruction’, but he had every opportunity to continue his run and be involved in that play and to have an opportunity to make a tackle on Corey Oates .
"Everyone who’s played at least one game of rugby league knows that Jahrome could’ve stayed on his feet there."
"If you want to stop players milking or laying down then you have to rule against them like that," Locker added.
"They’ve got to stay alive and make every effort to stay alive in the play. Obstruction is never black and white, and I think the discretion has to go to the Bunker, but if the individual, the defender, hasn’t made an effort to stay in the play, well then that’s the right call, 100 per cent ."
To his credit, Hughes recovered from the controversial play in brilliant fashion, scoring his first try just minutes later, before adding another in the second half to be named the Player of the Match.
Despite Hughes’ first-half dive, Storm coach Craig Bellamy was full of praise for his No.7.
"His improvement over the last 18 months has been immense, you know, and he’s up there with any half in the competition, I believe. He’s got a good kicking game and he’s got a great running game," he told reporters.
"He’s got some confidence in his leadership now as well. He’s not an overly confident guy. He’s not naturally confident, you know? He’s gotta earn his confidence, I suppose.
"Over the last 18 months (to) two years he’s certainly done that. I’ve said before, I wouldn’t swap him for any half in the competition."
Two second-half tries to Dean Ieremia as well as Hughes’ second for the night put the game to bed, although a 77th minute consolation try to Ezra Mam made the scoreline look more respectable from a Broncos perspective.
Broncos coach Kevin Walters said the two Storm tries before half-time were the "killer blow" for his side.
"They’ve been in the benchmark team for a long time and we’re we’re on the way up," he said.
"Whilst we’re disappointed with the loss, we can walk away from here, making sure that we learned a few things, and next time when that opportunity comes to in games like that we need to be better."
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Bellamy said his team’s patience in the first half was rewarded by the two late tries, which boosted his players’ confidence.
"We just hung in – we just knew we had to do what we know works for us," he said.
"It took ten or 15 minutes before we scored the first try in the second half, and then we put 26 points on them in a row."
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