The NRL's head of football Graham Annesley has admitted officials got it wrong during the Wests Tigers' controversial defeat to the North Queensland Cowboys on Sunday.
The Tigers on Monday lodged a formal complaint to the NRL after a contentious captain's challenge decision saw them lose 27-26 to the Cowboys, after the full-time siren in Townsville.
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Down by one point with a second to go, the Cowboys were awarded a game-defining penalty after the bunker declared that Kyle Feldt was obstructed while trying to regather a short kick off from the restart.
No penalty was blown on-field but Cowboys captain Chad Townsend made his case to referee Chris Butler before the challenge was allowed.
Ordinarily, a captain can only challenge calls made by the referee which force a stoppage in play, such as a knock-on or penalty.
However, the NRL has claimed the Cowboys were able to challenge the referee's 'soft whistle' to end the game and argue a foul was committed on the last play.
League fans have inundated social media to insist the Tigers were robbed of victory, and on Monday Annesley admitted that the bunker was wrong to penalise the visitors for an illegal escort.
"We've examined that carefully this morning from all available footage, and we're just not satisfied there was enough in that incident to warrant the decision of the bunker," Annesley said.
"Yes there was contact, yes there was a collision.
"But we believe the Wests Tigers player was heading towards the ball, he didn't look over his shoulder to see who was behind him."
NRL says captains' challenge 'was allowable'
Despite NRL fans and commentators insisting the Cowboys should never have been allowed to challenge after the final whistle anyway, Annesley stressed that officials did get that decision right.
Annesley says a captain's challenge "was allowable" because the referee had only blown the 'soft whistle' to signal a stoppage and not the full whistle to officially end to the game.
"You won't find anything in black and white in regards to what happened yesterday," Annesley added.
"In our view it (captain's challenge) was allowable in those circumstances.
"The rules around a captain's challenge talk about you can challenge any decision for the referee to stop the game."
The feedback will do little to please the Tigers, who are still weighing up whether to launch legal action to try and overturn the result.
"We believe the officials got it wrong, plain and simple," CEO Justin Pascoe said in a statement.
"That decision has cost us victory and we want answers.
"I'm not here to bash officials, I know they are doing their best, but the bunker is there to avoid 'howlers'.
"We would like an explanation from the NRL, and our members and fans deserve that."
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