The NRL insists the Wests Tigers' loss to North Queensland will stand despite admitting the bunker got a crucial final-second call wrong in the 27-26 defeat.
In a dramatic fallout to Sunday's result, the NRL's head of football Graham Annesley conceded there was not enough evidence for an escort penalty to be awarded.
His admission came as the Tigers considered legal action over the result, angry not so much about the escort call but questions over the process that allowed the challenge to happen.
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.
A penalty was blown but Cowboys captain Chad Townsend asked referee Chris Butler for the play to be reviewed to successfully find the escort and allow a match-winning penalty goal.
Annesley said a penalty should not have been given.
"We've examined that 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 at his weekly briefing.
"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."
The Tigers' main issues however extend beyond the bunker decision.
They are concerned that the bunker influenced Butler, speaking to him after he blew the whistle to stop play.
However the NRL was adamant on Monday that was not the case, and that officials were only informing him how many challenges the Cowboys had left.
The Tigers are also investigating whether the challenge should have been allowed, given no on-field call of escort had been made.
NRL rules state that challenges can only be made in the event of a call that leads to a structured restart, which was not the case when Butler stopped play after 80 minutes.
"You won't find anything in black and white in regards to what happened yesterday," Annesley said.
"There is nothing in the rule book that relates specifically to what happened yesterday."
But Annesley insisted that the challenge was permissible given there was a stoppage, with the Cowboys effectively challenging the end of play.
"The captain can challenge anything from the stoppage back to the previous play-the-ball," Annesley said.
"We can argue about the semantics or if the rule is clear enough, but let's go back to the intention of the captain's challenge.
"If it had been a more blatant foul, would we be happy for it (to be missed)?"
Regardless, his response has raised eyebrows among Tigers officials.
"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 fulltime whistle. He makes those decisions."
© AAP 2022