‘We don’t believe there was enough to award a penalty’

NRL head of football Graham Annesley admitted the bunker got it wrong in awarding North Queensland a controversial penalty at the end of Sunday’s clash which led to their match-winning penalty goal against the Wests Tigers.

Annesley addressed the media on Monday afternoon and said while the Cowboys were entitled to make a captain’s challenge on the play but conceded bunker official Ashley Klein made a blunder when he awarded a penalty against the last-placed Tigers.

Down 26-25 with one second to play, the Cowboys claimed Kyle Feldt was escorted off a short kick-off and obstructed from reclaiming the ball.

Klein ruled Tigers centre Asu Kepaoa “ran sideways which denies” Feldt the chance to catch it. Feldt was laughing after the verdict was announced and Valentine Holmes stepped up to nail the pressure penalty goal to the delight of the local fans.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Jackson Hastings of the Tigers looks dejected after losing the round 19 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Wests Tigers at Qld Country Bank Stadium, on July 24, 2022, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Jackson Hastings after Wests Tigers lost the Round 19 match against North Queensland. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“We’re just not satisfied that there was enough in that incident to warrant the decision of the bunker to award a penalty kick,” Annesley said at his Monday media briefing.

“Yes there was contact, yes there was a collision but we believe that the Wests Tigers player involved was heading towards the ball, he didn’t look over his shoulder to see who was coming behind him.

“Yes he ran a slightly strange line towards the ball but he was heading towards the ball and these are matters of judgment from the officials but on review this morning we just don’t believe there was enough in that to award a penalty and that the on-field challeng should have been at that point dismissed by the bunker as an unsuccessful challenge.”

No penalty was blown on-field but Cowboys captain Chad Townsend made his case to referee Chris Butler before the challenge was allowed.

Annesley was adamant the Cowboys were within their rights to challenge, despite no call being made by the referee on the field.

“You won’t find anything in black and white in regards to what happened yesterday,” Annesley said. “In our view it was allowable in those circumstances.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Valentine Holmes of the Cowboys celebrates after kicking the winning penalty goal during the round 19 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Wests Tigers at Qld Country Bank Stadium, on July 24, 2022, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Valentine Holmes celebrates after kicking the winning penalty goal. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“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 to overturn the result.

“When he says you won’t find these things in black and white, it would be helpful if they were,” Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis told AAP.

“The other concern is the decision of the referee and why it was being challenged. They still have not articulated what the decision was. 

“Was it inaction? Is that decision? Is it the inaction for an incident that didn’t occur (in the wrongly-awarded escort)? We would like to know that and have it explained to us.”

Hagipantelis said a decision on whether an appeal would be launched would be made “expeditiously”. The issue has also been noted at several other clubs fighting for top-two and top-four spots, with just two wins separating the Cowboys in second from seventh.

Annesley said he could not delve into any potential legal action from the Tigers, but said the result would not be changed.

“I’m not going to make any comment on what the Tigers may do, it’s not up to me. But the referee is the sole judge of fact,” Annesley said.  “From the time he blows the full-time whistle. He makes those decisions.”

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