Cowboys coach Paul Green took aim at the refereeing on Thursday night, saying his team's 31-18 defeat at the hands of South Sydney was over-officiated.
North Queensland actually had the better of the penalty count (10-8) but Green's point of contention was that the "stop-start" game never found any rhythm after whistles halted play on multiple occasions, and for more than just penalties.
The first 20 minutes of the game saw seven penalties as the game finished on a total of 18 – a number Green said was too high for a game with two of the competition's top sides.
"Eighteen penalties when you've got two top-four, top-five sides [playing against each other]... There were too many penalties," Green said after the game.
"The whole game was stop-start; just as the game started to get going there would be a run of penalties and stoppages so it was a bit frustrating. We found we didn't really get into our game.
"We won the penalty count so I'm not whinging about the penalties. You see State of Origin games and the penalty count is 3-2 or something like that and then the game flows.
"I just felt there were too many penalties there tonight. They stopped the game and checked things and then played on; the game didn't flow."
Despite the lack of flow in play the Cowboys had more than enough chances to strike, owning 55 per cent of possession.
But the Rabbitohs won the ground game, controlling the speed of the ruck both sides, and gave North Queensland very little when their own try line was under siege.
In a high-quality affair the Bunnies were clinical even with 10 per cent less ball, completing at 87 per cent to the Cowboys' 79 per cent – right on their season average.
"We didn't complete well enough in that first half. It's funny, after the game I thought even in the second half we didn't control the ball well enough but completion rate was high. I just had that feeling that because it was so stop-start we just couldn't get into the game," Green said.
Co-captain Matt Scott also noted how their early defensive pressure actually worked against North Queensland later in the game.
"Defensively we were on top early in the game. Just unfortunately every time we managed to build some pressure with our defence there would be a penalty and (Souths) would get marched out of their end much too easily," he said.
"We got through our sets pretty well and had a pretty good kicking game in the first half and defended really well.
"We just relieved all that good work and that pressure so for all of our energy expended early in that game we weren't really getting any results from it."