A ''GUTTED'' Johnathan Thurston last night repeated his on-field claim that North Queensland had been ''robbed'' as a frustrated Cowboys coach Neil Henry called for a review of the NRL refereeing system.
The Cowboys brains trust believe their season was decided by two controversial second-half Manly tries awarded by video referees Steve Clark and Paul Simpkins that overshadowed the Sea Eagles' 22-12 win.
''I am not saying they are biased, I would say they are incompetent and I am not on my own there,'' Henry said of the match officials. ''We've said all year they haven't been up to the mark - they are full-time but they don't have a feel for the game.
Manly Sea Eagles vs North Queensland Cowboys
NRL qualifying finals round 2 - The Manly Sea Eagles destroyed the North Queensland Cowboys' chances at a shot at the grand final by defeating them 22-12 at Allianz Stadium on Friday night. Manly will take on the Melbourne Storm next Friday in an attempt to meet the Bulldogs in the Grand Final. Photos by Brendan Esposito and Quentin Jones. Selected Images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com Follow us at http://twitter.com/photosSMH Photo: Brendan Esposito
''My phone is going off the hook that we have been dudded but that is not going to help us.''
A furious Thurston told referee Shayne Hayne after the second try was awarded to Manly winger Michael Oldfield in the 63rd minute: ''That is two times we have been robbed.'' Asked afterwards if he still felt that way, Thurston said: ''Without a doubt.
''Honestly, those decisions - they just can't justify them. I am gutted.''
Hand of Foz ... the Kieran Foran knock-on that led to a try. Photo: Channel Nine
Manly winger Jorge Taufua was awarded a controversial try in the 52nd minute when he appeared to have been tackled millimetres short of the try line by Ashley Graham and then rolled over the try line.
After viewing numerous replays, the video referees awarded the try and Hayne explained to Thurston: ''He lost sight of it [the ball] because of the corner post and he thinks he got it on the line.''
Thurston replied: ''It's not a double movement.''
However, he was far less composed after the second Manly try was awarded to Oldfield 11 minutes later, following five-eighth Kieran Foran appearing to knock on.
The try came from a Daly Cherry-Evans bomb that was missed by Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen and as Thurston went up for the ball, Foran looked to have knocked the ball forward. Jamie Lyon picked up the loose ball but Thurston also argued that a tackle by Antonio Winterstein had been complete before the Manly captain passed it to the ground and Cherry-Evans toed ahead for Oldfield to dive on it.
Clark and Simpkins had more than 20 looks at the incident before Hayne again advised Thurston: ''It doesn't touch Foran's hand, that is where the benefit of the doubt is.''
Foran last night insisted he did not touch the ball, saying: ''I jumped up and Thurston went for it at the same time. I didn't feel my hand touch it so he must've got his hand to it.'' But Thurston and Henry disagreed.
''Our season hung on a couple of decisions and maybe we should have tackled the guy [Taufua] into touch but I think he has promoted the ball and Foran has touched the bal,'' Henry said. ''The boys knew, Johno knew as soon as he jumped for it, he was pointing straight to it.
''It's sour grapes from our point of view, but I just think the remaining teams in the competition would be a little bit nervous. I'd imagine the coaches would be going, 'It's a bit of a lottery'. Yeah, we could have tackled him into touch, yeah we lacked a bit of composure at times, but both those decisions rattled us.''