Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett has lashed the NRL Bunker and the decision-making process behind the referral system after two crucial calls went against his side during Manly's 22-10 loss to the Panthers in Saturday night's elimination final at Allianz Stadium.
Trailing by six points early in the second half, Sea Eagles centre Dylan Walker was denied his second try of the night when the Bunker overturned the referees' live decision of 'try' because the speedster didn't have both feet behind Blake Green when he put in a kick.
While that was a bitter pill to swallow, Barrett's main gripe came seven minutes from full-time when the Panthers were awarded a try to Tyrone Peachey that broke the 10-all deadlock.
With the game in the balance, Panthers utility Bryce Cartwright put in a kick out of dummy-half that ricocheted off Daly Cherry-Evans's foot into Peachey's chest and then onto his thigh. Manly players were adamant the ball had brushed Peachey's hand before he scored, but due to a lack of sufficient video evidence, the Bunker couldn't overturn the original decision of 'try'.
"To have our season decided by two video referee calls that in my opinion weren't correct is extremely tough to take," Barrett said after his side were knocked out of the finals.
"Dylan Walker, on-field [it was called a] try [and] onside [but it was] overturned; no try.
"But at 10-all, how you get an on-field decision when a player kicks it into one of our players, it ricochets off him into the Penrith player's chest and off his hand, how they can say that they are 100 per cent confident that is a try is beyond me.
"I have to be careful with what I say, but what I would like is the Bunker and (referees boss) Tony Archer and the referees to go into my shed and explain to my players that their season is now finished on the back of those two calls. The season will go on for everyone else and everyone will say 'Manly got some rough calls', but that's not good enough."
What irked Barrett was the fact the Bunker was powerless to overturn the original decision due to a lack of evidence.
"If the ricochet is awarded no try, which they should have done, they can't overturn it. It's crazy, and it's cost us our season. Deadset, what am I meant to say to the players? Unbelievable," he bemoaned.
"The referee is better off putting his hands in the air and saying 'I've got no idea so let's have a look at it' rather than influence the decision of the Bunker with a 'no try' or 'try'. How the hell can you see? It went off a foot into a leg into a chest onto a hand. He must have good eyes."
He held a similar view in regards to the Walker no try.
"The on-field referee and the two judges thought he was [onside] as well, yet the video ref was 100 per cent certain that he was in front of him," he said.
"Go and explain that to the players. It's cost us our year – take nothing away from Penrith because they played well – but I hope that a grand final is not decided like that because that would be a bloody shame."
Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans sought clarification for the Peachey try and also questioned the decision-making process.
"I just wanted a better understanding of how they came to that decision," the halfback said.
"We feel pretty strongly about how the decision should have gone originally. We understand that the system is the way it is and leaves it quite vulnerable to those sorts of controversial decisions to be made at the end."
Had the decision gone Manly's way, Barrett was convinced Cherry-Evans would have gotten into position to slot a match-winning field goal.
"I'm proud of my players and we could have won that game," he said.
"At 10-all, if we get that decision, I would have backed him to get up the other end and kick a point."