Titans coach John Cartwright has chided his team for allowing a series of contentious calls to impact on their discipline as they self-destructed in their 28-8 loss to the Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.
Trailing 12-8 at half-time, the visitors finished on the wrong side of a 7-4 penalty count in the second half as not only the game but their prospects of playing finals football for the first time in four years also slipped away.
Aggressive back-rower Paul Carter was penalised twice for hits on Ashton Sims and Johnathan Thurston while Dave Taylor took his frustration out on an unsuspecting teammate in Nate Myles when he barrelled into a tackle following a failed attempt at a short kick-off.
The Cowboys were controversially awarded a try in the 44th minute when Thurston was ruled to have grounded the ball despite an apparent lack of evidence in the video review to overturn the on-field 'no try' decision but Cartwright said that was no excuse for losing their composure.
"You can accept a lack of discipline here and there but a bit of frustration set in and discipline went out the window a bit in the second half," Cartwright said.
"You'd like to see that sort of aggression and energy but it's got to be within the scope of the game. We had stages where we probably went a bit over the top, I think they were frustrated with some decisions and in general the way the game was officiated.
"You had a linesman put his flag up and [Kevin Gordon] didn't go out. The tackle on 'JT', the video ref try after half-time, it was continuous.
"There was no evidence where the ball touched the ground. There wasn't a person in the ground who thought it was a try. The players, the crowd... the only two guys who thought it was a try were the two guys in the video box.
"We spoke about it after the game, that we lost our discipline in the second half but when you've got to get real about it, there are some things that just leave you scratching your head."
Primary referee Jared Maxwell was having trouble communicating with assistant referee Gavin Badger and other match officials for almost the entirety of the encounter, leading to confusion on a number of occasions, in particular a tackle by Carter on Thurston after he kicked the ball that in the running was given the all clear by Badger but was then overruled by Maxwell.
"I felt like everything was against us," said Titans co-captain Greg Bird.
"Both the refs were making different calls. You've got one ref standing next to me that said one thing and the other one said another thing; it's hard to know which one to listen to.
"We were in control of the game the same way we've been the last few games really, in control of games and then lapse for a few minutes and they scored a couple of times and made some breaks and the floodgates opened."
It was the second week in succession that Carter had let his emotions get the better of him as he sensed the game slipping through his team's fingers but five-eighth Brad Takairangi said he is the type of player you want by your side.
"He can go over the top a bit sometimes but I love playing with him," Takairangi told NRL.com. "He brings that aggression and fear factor with how he defends and he probably just needs to pick his times to do it better."
The Titans' cause wasn't helped by losing Brad Tighe in the first 10 minutes with a groin strain while David Mead was taken from the field late in the game as a precautionary measure for a tight hamstring.