Should big Sam Burgess have been set to the sin bin? What would have happened if Jarrod Croker hadn't been stripped of possession with the try-line beckoning? The what ifs are cruel.
The Canberra Raiders had a chance to snatch victory against the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday night but some desperate defence helped the visitors hold on for a 16-12 triumph.
Burgess was the man of the moment in the first half. He gave away five of Souths' eight penalties in the first half, but somehow avoided being sent to the sin bin.
Raiders rookies Corey Horsburgh and Hudson Young rattled the big man in the opening 40 minutes and didn't back down against one of the game's biggest names. In fact, they got the better of Burgess.
The fact one player gave away so many penalties in a short period seemingly went over the referees' heads.
"[Burgess] was losing his way, wasn't he, with four penalties in a row. That wasn't what we wanted," said Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett.
"It was the worst period in the game for us. We did hold up and defended it and at half-time we got it sorted out."
A clip for Sam over the ears, Wayne? "Oh no. Just a friendly talk," he grinned.
Ricky Stuart's thoughts on Burgess' ill-discipline? "Interesting."
There were 13 penalties in the first half, which equalled the average for full matches this season so far. There was just one penalty in the second half.
CROKER'S CHANCE SLAPPED DOWN
The Raiders co-captain gets the ball with less than four minutes to go and with his team trailing by four points. He steps back inside off his left foot, sees an opening and the try-line is screaming at him.
Out of nowhere Souths fullback Corey Allan comes flying across and knocks the ball loose. Coming so close to victory only to have it slapped away hurt the Green Machine.
"I didn't drop it. I don't know what you can call it," Croker said."I was scoring and something hit the ball. I didn't lose control by any means, so it's obviously hit something there. That's the game, I've got to take responsibility for that."
THE TOP-FOUR LESSONS
Twelve, six and four. Those numbers will do little to ease the Canberra Raiders' broken hearts on Sunday morning, but they are also the reason why they should be confident.
The Raiders will most likely remain in fourth spot by the end of the weekend. They've lost games against the three teams above them, by 12 points against Melbourne, six against the Roosters and four against the Rabbitohs.
The Green Machine will never accept close enough as good enough, but they are definitely trending in the right direction and no one will doubt their finals credentials.
"The boys can take a lot of confidence out of that. One little stuff-up there gives us an opportunity to win the game," Croker said.
"I should have taken the opportunity there at the end but unfortunately I just lost it at the last second.The boys were great tonight, that was one of our better games of the season, we should be proud of that effort. We've just got to take those opportunities."
A SPECIAL ONE FOR 'Q'
The Raiders wore black armbands as a tribute to Quentin Pongia, who lost his battle with cancer on Saturday. He was 48.
The former Raiders hardman was a 1994 premiership-winning player and is widely regarded as one of the toughest to have played for the Green Machine.
"It's really sad. he wouldn't have wanted us to be upset about his passing away, he would have wanted us to win tonight. That's what we tried to do for him," Stuart said. "That probably hurts more than anything, not winning for him."
Croker said: "Q was here for a couple of years as an assistant coach for us so I have got a lot of respect for Q. He is a great guy and he has got so much respect, not only at this club but around the whole competition and in New Zealand as well.
"The club was very sad to hear about the news. While we didn't get the win for him tonight, I'm sure he would have been very proud of our effort, it was very tough. A lot of physicality, a bit of push and shove and rumbling, and that was what Q was all about. He would have been proud of it."
The rugby league community was in mourning on Saturday, with former teammates, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and several others making touching tributes.
BY THE NUMBERS
You only need to glance briefly at the statistics to know why the game was right from the NRL's top drawer.
Posesssion was 50-50, both teams had 84 per cent completion rates and just 14 errors in 80 minutes, most of which came as the players tired towards the end.
The best part? Raiders fans voted with their feet on election night with 16,965 turning up to watch the contest many are already hoping to see again in the finals. It was the Raiders' third-highest regular-season home crowd in the past nine years.
AT A GLANCE
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 16 (Cody Walker, Mawene Hiroti tries; Adam Reynolds 2 conversions, 2 penalties) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 14 (Sam Williams try; Jarrod Croker conversion, 3 penalties) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night. Crowd: 16,965.