Cowboys coach Paul Green was completely lost for words after Saturday night's 16-14 loss to Newcastle, feeling his side deserved more love from on-field officials.
Green and co-captain Matt Scott were particularly incensed with the Knights' treatment of star halfback Johnathan Thurston after he was rushed by the Newcastle defence, namely Jeremy Smith and Origin rival Beau Scott.
Green bit his tongue on multiple occasions, not wanting to overstep the mark after the NRL's recent crackdown on criticism of referees.
"I'm not sure what I can say without getting fined tonight," the Cowboys coach said.
"We are supposed to be making the game safe. I felt that (Thurston) was certainly targeted by the opposition. They take it out of our hands, as in the players' hands, through trying to make the game safe.
"But if that's the way they want the game to go, someone needs to protect the players."
The game was a physical affair with Scott reported twice for roughing Thurston, the halfback himself being put on report for a high shot and Justin O'Neill taken off on a medicab after a Kade Snowden tackle went wrong.
Add two sizeable scuffles, lazy swinging arms and a Jeremy Smith knee to Thurston's face, and Green was seeing red.
"Yeah well (Thurston's) eye is just about closed, and he's a guy that wears headgear as well. We've got to be clear on... I'm just going to bite my tongue here, I don't have a spare 10 grand," Green said.
Scott added: "They definitely pushed the boundaries tonight, and I just can't see how some penalties are blown for minor infringements, yet they talk about protecting the players and we see someone like Johnno getting treated like that."
Despite multiple reports on Scott and a possible judiciary review of Snowden's tackle on O'Neill, Newcastle coach Rick Stone was pleased with his team's performance after winning their first game in Townsville since 2011.
"(Beau Scott's reports) is just part and parcel of competing real hard to get the two points. You don't get the two points up here unless you are really competitive and that was one of our goals today," Stone said.
"I think Johnno competes hard and I think it's our job to compete hard. That's the game; we've got to compete hard for 80 minutes.
"If you're going to take the points out of Townsville you've got to compete hard, and I know Johnno is one of the best competitors in the game and we made sure we competed hard right across the park today."