North Queensland coach Todd Payton says his side’s 46-18 loss to South Sydney on Friday night could have been “a different ball game” if it wasn’t for some inconsistent referee decision’s that cost the Cowboys serious momentum.
The Cowboys trailed the Rabbitohs by 10 points at halftime and were well and truly in the game, before a controversial referee decision cost them dearly.
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Just three minutes into the second half, Cowboys young gun Heilum Luki was sent to the sin bin and put on report for a high shot on Peter Hamouzelos, leaving them a man down for 10 minutes.
But the second half could have been very different if referee Matt Cecchin had penalised Rabbitohs prop Liam Knight for a very similar incident just moments earlier.
Knight landed a high shot on Dearden, and despite escaping the referee’s attention at the time, was put on report shortly after.
The no-call shifted the momentum heavily in South Sydney’s favour as they piled on eight consecutive tries to run away with the game and cement their spot in the top four.
Payton was frustrated at the lack of consistency from the referee.
“I saw the referee point at it … I’ve seen it penalised before,” Payten told reporters after the match.
“The next set, they roll down the park and (Luki) Heilum gets 10 in the bin.
“If he penalises that (Dearden incident) it’s a different ball game. I’m not saying the result is any different, but it’s a different game.”
Referee Matt Cecchin sends Heilum Luki of the Cowboys to the sin bin during the match against the Rabbitohs. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Asked if a penalty could have been given if Dearden remained on the turf to attract the attention of the referee, Payten responded: “Very possible, yeah, but Tommy’s a tough little competitor which is what I like about him.”
The limp defeat for the Cowboys, who were without three Origin stars of their own, extends their losing streak to a fourth game and continues their free fall down the table.
The Cowboys sit tenth on the ladder and are yet to defeat a side currently in the top eight this season.
Payten wasn’t mincing his words, criticising his team’s poor performance in the “tough parts of the game”.
“It’s very similar to the last couple of games, where we put ourselves under pressure,” he said.
“We made a mistake at the 25th minute mark — poor pass, drop ball and then compound that by not defending our line.
“We’re an immature team at the moment. Just not willing to pay the price in the tough parts of the game for long enough.”
“Very frustrated. The different parts of that frustration (is that it) seems to be the same people consistently over 15-16 rounds.”
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