NORTH Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston claimed his side had been "robbed" after two controversial Manly tries in last night's sudden death semi-final helped end the Cowboys season 22-12.
Calls for a captain's challenge to be introduced in the NRL will also intensify after referee Shayne Hayne appeared to make a wrong call that led to a North Queensland try when the Sea Eagles were leading.
The refereeing drama overshadowed what was otherwise a gripping contest played before a disappointing crowd of 16,678 at Allianz Stadium and a shoulder injury that leaves Manly co-captain Jason King in doubt for next Friday night's match against Melbourne Storm.
Try time: Manly's Michael Oldfield, crosses for the Sea Eagles' first try against North Queensland last night. Photo: Quentin Jones
Both second-half Manly tries were awarded by video referees Steve Clarke and Paul Simpkins, who gave the benefit of the doubt to Sea Eagles wingers Jorge Taufua and David Oldfield.
The first was in the 52nd minute of the match when Taufua appeared to be tackled millimetres short of the line by Ashley Graham before rolling over the tryline.
After viewing numerous replays, the video referees awarded the try to Taufua 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".
But he was far less composed after the second Manly try was awarded to Oldfield 11minutes later after Sea Eagles five-eighth Keiran Foran appeared to knock on.
The try came from a Daly Cherry-Evans bomb that was missed by Cowboys full-back 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 completed 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".
Thurston responded by screaming "what" and then saying: "That is two times we have been robbed".
Earlier, another controversial call threatened to help dump the reigning premiers from the finals after Hayne ruled that Taufua had lost the ball 40 metres out from his line.
Replays shown on the big screen before a scrum could be packed suggested Graham had knocked the ball out with his hand and Lyon was demanding: "It's a penalty, it's a penalty."
Winterstein scored on the last tackle of the set to level the scores at 12-12 and Lyon immediately ran to referee Ben Cummins.
"Why wasn't the penalty given?," Lyon said.
Cummins replied: "I'm aware of that but we had made the decision".
Lyon then asked "If you see it, why can't you change it".